This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
by Audrey Bell
Copyright © 2014 by Audrey Bell. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law. Printed in the United States of America. First Edition.
Cover design © Sarah Hansen, Okay Creations LLC Cover photograph ©ollyy, Shutterstock
“You have to pick the places you don't walk away from.” -Joan Didion
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
LOVE SHOW Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty-One Chapter Twenty-two Chapter Twenty-three Chapter Twenty-Four Chapter Twenty-Five Chapter Twenty-Six Chapter Twenty-Seven Chapter Twenty-Eight Chapter Twenty-Nine Chapter Thirty Chapter Thirty-One Chapter Thirty-Two Chapter Thirty-Three Chapter Thirty-Four Chapter Thirty-Five Chapter Thirty-Six Chapter Thirty-Seven Chapter Thirty-Eight Chapter Thirty-Nine
Chapter Forty Chapter Forty-One Chapter Forty-Two Chapter Forty-Three Chapter Forty-Four Chapter Forty-Five Chapter Forty-Six Chapter Forty-Seven Chapter Forty-Eight Chapter Forty-Nine Chapter Fifty Chapter Fifty-One Epilogue
The fall of my senior year of college, my roommate decided I was a head case because of the espresso machine to which we owed our friendship. Actually, David probably decided I was a head case the first day of freshman year, when we met. My mother had just decided to get divorced for the fifth time and I had just decided I’d had enough. "I just don't understand where the rest of your room is," my mother said for the eighth time. "This is the whole room. All of it." "But where will you put your espresso machine?" "In the hallway. The espresso machine can go in the hallway or it can go with you, but it is not going in here." "I think you should complain. I thought you were supposed to be going to college. This looks like a prison cell." I’d stepped out of the tiny room with the espresso machine to catch my breath. And that’s when I’d met David. He had taken the espresso machine and, because he had no one to move him in, he'd also taken my mother. Anyways, he'd been fine with my being a head case and in love with the espresso machine until the last week of November my senior year, when he decided he was definitely not okay with either.
"What. David stormed out of the room." "Well. Hell. time flies. It's early." "Are you kidding me?" "Sorry." "Time does not fly." He looked at me seriously. And not in a good way. Doing. It's five forty-five in the morning. But not by you. The. Are. I know it's late." "Can you ever look like a drug addict in a good way?" "I'm sure it's been done before. I smiled and held my hand out for the book. So." “A study intervention?” He took my Arabic book away. "Gosh." I held up my Arabic textbook. I needed a few cappuccinos. It was the fourth cappuccino that did it. "You look like a drug addict. I'm not on drugs." "That's okay. I'm having an intervention anyways. . "Seriously?" I glanced at the clock." he said. Hadley.I had just gotten back to Northwestern from my third-round interview at The New York Times and had to put the finishing touches on a junior staffer's piece on online privacy before memorizing idiomatic expressions for my advanced Arabic test in the morning. You. It moves at a constant pace." "It's not late. "Test tomorrow.
You learned how to speak a language in college." "You need to study like the Mojave Desert needs a dry spell. people think I live with a drug addict.” "You're addicted to work. leafing through the pages." "Oh. I need to feel superior or." David said." he said mildly. Work and caffeine and possibly sugar. this is unhealthy. Tara Barnes. "I need the book back. And your work ethic makes me feel small and pathetic and lazy and we can't have that. equal to you."David. "Anyways." . "Let's talk about this later." "How is it unhealthy for you?" "Because. look at this. "You are." I smiled." He closed the book. Miley Cyrus. You have a 4. It's unhealthy for you and it's even more unhealthy for me. a Xanax. You are the last person in the world who needs to study. and a two-year vacation. I need to study. Kim Kardashian." I tried to snatch the book back from him. You do not need to study. "I mean." "You need to get laid. "How to roll a joint.0 GPA. at the very least." "I am not addicted to anything. when that's not possible. Here are some people who need to study. You need to take a nap. Me. You want to know what I learned?" "Theater?" He arched an eyebrow. please.
"Today. David. “I need the book back.” He sat down on the couch. We can cook dinner. the interview seemed fine.” He looked at me expectantly. “So. She seemed cool— intense but cool.” . “I liked the journalist who interviewed me."Like when?" David asked. I forgot about that. It's good. “I really want the job. "How was the interview?" "Seriously?" "You want the book back?" I exhaled.” I shrugged. “It was fine. "They said they weren't sure about my experience level. reaching out my hand for the book. is that all?" I asked. and Arabic's not as useful. “Of course not. But. "That's good!" “Yeah.” I shrugged." “Isn't the newspaper cohosting the Ambassador to Turkey at the multicultural center for dinner tonight?” I looked at him. It would be in Africa. I liked her a lot. Dinner. I want to discuss your mental health and your sex life.” I rubbed my chin. That was supposed to be an icebreaker. not the Middle East.” I agreed." "When today? Before or after the newspaper staff meeting?" "Christ.
the thing—” He stopped himself short.” "Well.“Look. “Wait. I'm worried that you're going to do everything you signed up for so well that you won't ever enjoy anything. you'll make out with a stranger?" “No. “There’s nothing to worry about. “We're not done here. Now. I get it. Promise.” He growled. you're worried I can't do what I signed up for. obviously. at the very least. what? I'm right?” “Yes. I'll take a nap. You're right. "It has to do with the college experience.” "See.” I said. that's not what I meant. can I have the book?” "So. I'm worried about you. Not to sleep. I'm just going to bed. I'm stressed out right now and it's freaking you out and I woke you up—” “It's not freaking me out. Kind of. You're right. “Like.” he said sincerely. “I'm saying you’re awesome and you need to take a nap and get laid or. Hadley. “Book. I'm a head case. You would look .” He handed it back to me. make out with a stranger. I'm not worried that you can't do it.” “It is." “Fine. though.” “What does that have to do with anything?” He rolled his eyes. “It's not an insult.” He smiled.” He smiled.
I'm going to practice transcendental meditation and possibly achieve nirvana.” He flounced back to his room and I returned to the text. . my eyes blurring.down on that. I'll let you know if I get there.
“I forgot we were doing this here.Chapter Two David had probably been right to worry about my mounting sleep debt. He was also one of our more talented writers.” Justin said with a grin. The death hadn’t occurred on campus. On a Friday! David would've had strong words for this. but Justin thought it might be a . And quiet. That's the kind of day I've had. Justin Shelter hunched over his laptop at a corner table in the engineering library. A student had died over the summer from alcohol poisoning. "Sorry. “Thanks for coming. but there were a few outsiders.” Most of the kids who worked for the paper were in the Medill School of Journalism. I went to the wrong library to meet with one of the freshman staff writers for The Daily Northwestern who had doubts about a piece he'd been working on. but no real changes.” I said breathlessly. I read over his most recent draft while he watched. and it had prompted a lot of concerned emails from the administration. Which was crowded. After my Arabic exam. I forgot you were an engineering student altogether. occasionally chewing a stray fingernail. He had a knack for investigative journalism and had spent the last month working on a piece on alcohol and student health.” “No sweat. Justin was one of them.
symptom of a larger issue. if they don't want to defend themselves. He was right—a dozen different students. most of them freshmen. and I don't think he will. He hasn't written back.” He squinted at his computer screen.” “Have you contacted anyone at the fraternity?” “Yeah. “Yeah. “That changes things. “Wow. “Well. an off-campus fraternity house.” I said.” “Yeah. I emailed the president twice.” He nodded. had been hospitalized since the beginning of the year for alcohol poisoning and eleven of them had come from the same address. Say they declined your repeated requests for . It’s just what’s true.” I said when I got to that point. They didn't exactly give me anything printable.” “Make it clear that the house is at the center of the incidents.” He frowned. ‘don't be a fag’ counts as a legitimate comment. I know. But. you know? It's about student health.” “Animals. "I asked a few other kids. Unless. you can't change facts. “I know.” “I don't want it be a takedown piece. “The fact that kids have gone to the hospital from their parties at a disproportionate rate isn't a takedown. fine.” I said.
” I said. Yeah. listen. whether this is specific to this fraternity or specific to fraternities in general. “Don't let it stress you out.” “You're not the story.” I said. People who aren’t in the fraternity but go to their parties. Talk to a few other people. . I think the article will be great. you've worked hard on it. “I just don’t want to seem like a kid with an ax to grind.” I shrugged. Sorry to be an alarmist. “Just…it would be easier if it were easier. “It's a good story. it's an important story. “Literally no one ever read my high school newspaper. “Yeah. not to your opinions. It's a good story.” “I know. but you can't leave it out. I just wasn't sure what to do. I know.” He nodded.comment.” I laughed. “Yes.” He grinned. He'd have heard that if he'd taken a journalism class.” He smiled ruefully.” “That's the problem!” He smiled and then sighed. well. I think you are great. “Alright. See if they can give you a better idea of what happened.” He nodded. But. I'll get a draft to you sometime next week. You know all this. The facts speak for themselves. Right. people will read this.” He let out a heaving sigh. so I didn't have to worry about it. whether the fraternity should bear some of the responsibility or not. “Thanks. It would. “You want to be fair.” “Well.
“So. “Right. Zero. “Liar. were making risotto when I got back to the apartment to change into something less ratty than my torn jeans and ragged t-shirt.” “Take your time.” Nigel laughed. I don't even want to go. you know . I have to practice my speech. But email me if anything else comes up. his friend from the GSA.” I looked at Nigel. “How'd you get roped into this?” “I wanted to come.” David and Nigel. “Yeah. “I thought you were coming to the dinner. David said you were just meeting Justin Shelter?” I nodded. “You coming to this multiculturalism thing?” He shook his head.” I got to my feet. David raised his eyebrows. unfortunately. “I’ve got to study this stuff.” I told David.” “Well. “I’m coming to the dinner for you. of course. How many writers do you say that to?” “None. so you're special.” Nigel insisted. Only you. but you really can't expect me to eat cafeteria food on a Friday night.” He laughed. okay?” “Yeah.Exams are killing me. But you're the only person who investigates anything.
“I knew something was wrong with him. “Yes. I went to my room and pulled on a black dress that I'd worn to a winter formal my junior year of high school.” Nigel said.him?” “I do.” I said.” Nigel shrugged.” I said. like the saleswoman at Bergdorf's had promised. “You know who needs relationship advice?” David asked.” “I just didn't know he was gay.” “Hadley Arrington.” Nigel laughed. David had a bad habit of falling in love with straight boys." I said. Really? I want to help. It had held up well. "She needs to get laid. Kim Kardashian.” “Miley Cyrus. "Amanda Bynes.” I said. “What's wrong with him?” David asked. “Tiger Woods. “Ooh. Front of the line. My mother and I had been on one of those horrific . I'm trying to set David up with him.” “Does he know he's gay?” David asked. Nigel had a bad habit of trying to fix it. “I'll take it under consideration.” “You're joking. “Close. sighing." David told Nigel.” "I need to get dressed.
I'd finally put away my books and my clothes. stepbrother. and stepsister—had disappeared as quickly as they'd arrived.” I had already known that. another casualty of the divorce. A stranger. . The house had disappeared too. And a stranger was an incredibly stupid and unreliable thing to depend on. and Leah—my stepfather. but I had never heard her say it aloud and it made one thing very clear to me: being afraid to be alone made you dependent on someone else. We’d left on the college tour the next morning. The dress had been an attempt at a bribe. after three months of refusing to unpack. Hadley. and.college tours that everyone goes on with their parents. Someone you hadn’t met yet. “You'll be gone soon. She'd signed divorce papers that November and Tom. and I don't want to be alone. where the only thing you end up doing is fighting. after she'd bought the dress and a pair of shoes that I would never learn to walk in. I'd been dusting off the box of picture frames to put up around my room when my mother told me that Lawrence had proposed. Julian. I would end up remembering each school by what we fought about there.” my mother said. We'd moved to a penthouse apartment on Market Street. “You have to understand. NYU had been our last stop.
But. When I stepped back out of my room. I broke up with him when he said he loved me. a douche bag move.” I admitted. I had liked him. though. It reminded me too much of my mother. “I don't have a type. Lost my virginity to him. He told everyone I was a huge bitch. very. “Last boyfriend?” Nigel asked. Everyone believed him. My last boyfriend had been Luke. very calm. Nice kid.I promised myself I would never do that. And when everyone believes something about you. I rolled my eyes. “Nigel said he needs to know what's your type. "High school. he also told everyone I was a slut. I set down my fork. not wanting to get into it. David handed me a plate of butternut squash risotto. “I could live on this stuff. People believed him. “Some lacrosse player.” . He’d been the popular one.” I looked at Nigel. and second of all. In high school. I didn’t blame him for that. a lie. That was. I took a bite of the risotto and closed my eyes. “Of what?” “Of man. first of all. The whole nine yards.” “I think her type needs to be very. it might as well be true.” David said.” I said dismissively. And I never did.” David said.
” David said. And valedictorians. when's the last time you went on a date?” Nigel asked.” “How would I hurt a lacrosse player?” “You’d kill him with your Arabic textbook. We don't have a lacrosse team.” “Well. I cocked my head." I said. “She'll hurt it. “Her type is not lacrosse player.” “Ray Chang.” David said. Don't try to find one. as you may have heard.” David said. That’s all. “The only things that might have gotten to know you well enough to ask you out are your textbooks and the newspaper.“Seriously?” Nigel asked. I don't have a type.” “Well. My last boyfriend was a lacrosse player.” “We have a fencing team. “No. “I don't know.” David said. trying to think. . that would be hard to do. ignoring David. to be fair.” I said. "On second thought. Nobody's asked me out since high school. they generally don't ask questions. good. “He was the valedictorian of my high school and my ex-stepbrother was on the fencing team with him. maybe it is lacrosse player. and.” Nigel pointed out. “Well. “Your type is lacrosse player?” I shook my head.
Come on. looking from Nigel to David. he's been dead for decades. I'm trying to get you laid so you relax. “I don't want a boyfriend.” “Okay.” I admitted. I shrugged.” “I'm not trying to find you a boyfriend. David exhaled. And then I can relax. They both looked at me blankly. “And it was a prom date. “So you're saying you're a necrophiliac? Is that it?” “I'm saying I'm not interested in being set up with anyone. “No. really?” I said. We both needed someone to go with. “He ended Joe McCarthy's career?” I reminded them. not a real date.” “Is he in Twilight?” Nigel asked.” I said. “Huh.” “Who is the last person you hooked up with?” Nigel asked. who’s your celebrity crush?” “Edward Murrow.” I said. “George Clooney made a movie about him? Good Night and Good Luck.” Nigel said.“We didn't exactly hit it off. “He did the report on the Army-McCarthy hearings?” Nothing. The last person I'd hooked up with had been Andrew—a boy I still worked with on the newspaper—and it had been the night I found out I would . missed that one.
” Nigel cocked his head. “So. “I'm tired.be Editor-in-Chief.” I admitted. because he would be very convenient and he’s in love with her.” “He’s not in love with me. wincing as I swallowed a large gulp of David's concoction. I walked back to campus with David.” “Andrew is not her type. “But that barely counts. basically. The speech went off without a hitch. It had been the kind of night that only ever happens right after finals.” I said. “Which is unfortunate. you don't know what you want. sipping vodka and lemonade from a Gatorade bottle." “She has no idea. Nigel had abandoned us to meet a student at the University of Chicago he had just started dating. and walked to the sanctuary of my room. “She needs to go to tailgate. The kind of night when you can’t tell exactly what it is that has gotten you so drunk: exhaustion or alcohol or relief. I have things to do. waved the printout of my speech in front of them.” I picked up my plate of risotto." David called after me. “Andrew. “Okay.” David said.” David said. "You're coming to tailgate. My phone vibrated in my coat pocket and I stared .” Nigel said.
Yeah.” I said. "Oh.” I blinked. Okay.” she continued. this is Hadley. I rolled my eyes.” .” I swallowed. “Unfortunately. okay. I really want to emphasize that we all thought you did a great job and that you were a strong candidate for this position.at the unrecognizable number. “On a Friday night?” “Answer it!” he said urgently.” I swallowed. we've decided to go in a different direction with someone with more experience. not that you'll need our wishes to achieve it. um. What are you supposed to say to that? Thank you for being impressed? “But.” “I'm sorry this isn’t better news.” “Hadley. Thanks. “I bet that's the Times. Well.” “Doubtful. “Ah.” “How are you?” I asked. And we will certainly keep your résumé on file for future openings.” She took a breath. He fist-pumped exuberantly. it's Suzanne Reiss from the New York Times. “Listen. "Hello. That'd be good. thanks for letting me know. I just wanted to give you a call and tell you how impressed we were with your candidacy. nodding at David to let him know he’d guessed correctly. “We wish you every success. She sounded sympathetic.
I really do wish it were better news. That I hadn't just been told “no” by The New York Times. too. foolishly. David slipped his hands into his pockets and watched me warily. It was childish.” I said again. I looked up at the starless night. disappointed. Have a good evening. I should have seen it coming. Hadley. I multiplied numbers in my head until the tears dissipated and then I took a long swig from the Gatorade bottle and flashed David a falsely bright smile. strangling the flash of emotion in my chest. “You. trying to pretend that didn't just happen. out of sorts.” “Thanks.” I pushed the phone back into my bag. . I took another sip from the Gatorade bottle. to cry over not getting a prestigious job that I was lucky to even be interviewing for.“Of course. really. thinking of the hundreds of nights I stayed up too late and woke up too early and said no to too many friends. that because I gave up on fun. I was entitled to a job at the Times. I didn’t like that I had allowed myself to think that way. “What did they say?” he asked after a second. surprised at the hot rush of anger and hurt I felt. I blinked twice. “I didn't get the job. but here I was.” “What?” he looked shocked. I had believed.
There wasn't .” “It's fine. talk to me.” “No. It doesn't matter. No big deal. I took another long sip of the lemonade and vodka.” "It's not. but it still sucks. She said they would keep you in mind. It's a miracle they've kept afloat since 1851 without my services. "Hadley. "It's their loss. “I'm sure they'll really suffer without me. He jogged to keep up with me. anyways. “I'm sorry. He grabbed my wrist. I told myself. There are so many other newspapers.” He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and I let him hug me briefly.” I said. So many other places to apply. “Hey." I bit my lip. not particularly wanting to be comforted." "Right." David said. David caught up to me. slow down. Really.He reached for me." He shook his head. I swallowed thickly. And it's fine. I stepped away. wondering if I'd picked the wrong pieces to showcase or if I had seemed too shy for the Eastern Africa bureau or something. it's fine. It doesn't matter. Come on. He didn't say much else. It's funny how quickly you begin to talk yourself out of your own dreams. There are other newspapers.
"You look like a troll doll. I shuffled out of the bathroom and over to David. I toweled off my hair and put on a bathrobe.” I closed my eyes. "You've Got Mail could only be the name of a . "Say something so I know you didn't drown yourself!" "Be right out!" I called back. fuck. That happened whenever I went too long without a normal amount of sleep. fuck. "Fuck. red-rimmed and dark-circled. "A fucking demented troll doll. When we got home. "And you're talking to yourself. "Fuck. "You've Got Mail is on!" David shouted. unwilling to look at myself for another second." I cleared my throat. you've lost your mind. I toweled my hair into some kind of nasty Mohawk and got another good look at myself in the mirror. I washed the shampoo out of my hair and slapped my hand against the shower wall twice." When I got out of the shower. No wonder they didn’t hire you. I took a shower. I sat down next to him on the couch just as Meg Ryan was being stood up by Tom Hanks at the café. the left one was slightly larger than the right. You’re fucking crazy." I muttered. "Clearly. My eyes showed most of the week's damage. So." I told my reflection." I exhaled and huffed.much else to say. I looked at myself in the mirror.
And stop talking. "And a haircut. Laid. Have you seen this? My eyes are different sizes.romantic comedy in the 90s. Need. I dropped off into slumber. "You." He looked at my eyes." David took a handful of popcorn. So. thinking of something else to say about the inanity of romantic comedies. And go to sleep. but as soon as my eyes were shut. To. close them. Get. "It's ‘cause you're tired." I said. "The only thing I like about my inbox is the delete button." "I need to get a job. And new eyes." I yawned. ." I said.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I demanded when he came at me with scissors. They're calling for a monsoon.” I said dryly. "Sure.Chapter Three David had been counting on doing a lot more wheedling to get me to go to tailgate. “You need a haircut." He opened his mouth and then closed it. I've been thinking that it's a requirement for you to attend tailgate.” “Trust me. he was already drinking with Nigel.” “No.” "Seriously?" I shrugged. "Wonderful. It's a recipe for disaster. jabbering on his cell phone to someone he was calling 'Snookums. Put on something waterproof. When I walked out of my room at 11 AM. "Why not? I don't have anything better to do. Nobody should drink alcohol at eleven in the morning. He lifted a plastic cup in my direction and grinned wickedly.” David said.' "So.” . Nigel was slurring his words by noon and David was trying to cut my hair and I was singing Ke$ha at the top of my lungs. Nigel was squinting at a beer." “Perfect.
“That would be criminal. however. “Yes. it’s giving me a panic attack. He pouted. please.” “Cut your own damn hair.” “No. He filled my glass with another generous . “But." David announced. I’m dying to cut somebody’s hair.” “Oh my God." I said to David as he snipped in the air. He sipped his lethally strong vodka lemonade from a hot pink Hello Kitty cup he had bought on one of our epic trips to Target." "Please. Hadley.” he huffed. "That is dangerous. And Nigel has a limited quantity of hair.” I said.” “You have so many split ends.” He pouted. Hadley.” “Suit yourself.” David checked his reflection in the mirror and tossed his head from side to side so his golden locks bounced. “There is nothing wrong with my hair. Hadley. “Your hair. please. “You’re making out with a stranger today." I looked at Nigel's buzz cut. "Go away. dropping the scissors on the counter. He smiled maniacally.” he said.“No. please —” I looked in the mirror. is problematic.
portion of lethal lemonade. "I can't drink this." "You can. And you will. And then you will find a stranger, make out with him, and have the college experience." "That's it?" "No, that’s the beginning," David said. "Baby steps. Nigel!" Nigel opened his eyes. “What?” "Are you falling asleep?" "No," Nigel said. I slurped my drink through a straw. David turned the music up louder. By the time, I’d had my third vodka lemonade, I probably would have let David cut my hair and then perform open heart surgery if he wanted to. "We need to go," Nigel said to David. "Hadley, we're leaving," David said to me. “I love you so much. I think maybe we should get married,” I said to David. “I did not go through hell in high school so that I could marry someone with a vagina.” He gave me a withering look. “We would be a great couple though. And we wouldn’t ever have to have sex.” “Don’t be disgusting.” “I love you.” He dragged me by the wrist toward the
refrigerator. “You need to drink more. You have the alcohol tolerance of a four year old.” “Well, maybe we could have sex once if we wanted to have kids.” “Please stop talking.” He handed me a Red Bull and I made a face. “Don’t even start. You are drinking that. I am not going to carry you home. I’m just not. If you pass out in the parking lot, then you can stay there. In the Monsoon. Where you will drown.” “That’s mean.” “That’s why I’m giving you a Red Bull,” he said. “You would totally carry me home.” He made a face. He would totally carry me home. He just wouldn’t be happy about it. So, I drank the Red Bull. We stumbled down the tree-lined block to the parking lot where the student tailgate was held. I wore jeans and boots with a heel, and a tight purple tank top to show a modicum of school spirit. “I should have worn a coat.” “You’re too drunk to be cold.” “You don’t know everything.” “I know most things,” David replied wearily. “What is the point of even going to this thing? They aren’t going to beat Nebraska,” I said. “Nobody cares about the game. It’s for the social scene,” he said. And, that was true. Most of the students would stumble back to their dorms and apartments long
before halftime. “Hadley!” Andrew Brenner shouted as soon as we walked into the parking lot, which was jam-packed with people I knew and people I’d never seen. Everyone looked drunk. I hugged Andrew warmly. Mostly because, in spite of David’s insistence that I wouldn’t feel cold, I was freezing. “It’s supposed to rain,” Andrew warned me, with an eye to the sky. “There’s a low pressure system moving northeast out of Kansas.” “Oh, okay,” I looked up at the foreboding clouds and nodded. “Low pressure.” Andrew really liked the weather, which was endearing, but…you know, tedious. He knew all sorts of facts about dew points and densities and southerly breezes. So long as you didn’t let him get started on meteorology, he was the sweetest kid in the world. But he’d started in on the weather. And no matter how sweet he was, I couldn’t take much of it. Usually, David would have taken this opportunity to interrupt and drag me somewhere more interesting, but he gave me a thumbs up and an encouraging smile. “I’m just going to say hi to someone,” he said. "David," I hissed at his rapidly retreating back. "Hey, did you hear back from the Times yet?"
Andrew asked. I cocked my head at him. "Nope. No, I didn't. Not a word. I did hear that there was a hurricane off the coast of West Africa, though. Sounds wild.” Andrew looked at me incredulously. "No way." "I'm pretty sure," I lied. "Where?" He pulled out his iPhone. "Do you know if the system has a name? That would be virtually unprecedented. It's almost December! And it’s the Southern hemisphere…” "I've got to run," I said. I lunged after David, but quickly found myself jumbled in a vaguely familiar sea of purple. The music was thumping. The pavement vibrated. I’d felt houses vibrate from aggressively loud speakers, but I’d never felt the actual ground move. And I thought I was drunk, but I definitely wasn’t. I mean, not compared to the people here. I wasn’t throwing up in a garbage can like the skinny girl in jean shorts a few yards to my right. And I hadn’t yet taken off my shirt, like the screaming, incoherent boy to my left. “This is trippy,” I muttered to myself. Appropriately, I took that moment to trip. Not badly. I caught myself. Still, I tripped. Someone wrapped a warm hand around my arm and helped me up. I brushed my hands off on my jeans, cringing. “You okay?”
I looked up into a pair of thick-lashed brown eyes. They were soft. Bedroom eyes. Deep and big. Something you wanted to fall into. Okay, so I was definitely drunk. He was handsome, too, in a blue plaid shirt, with a playful smile—halfway between teasing and happy to see you—and tall, at least six two. We were standing close enough that I had to lift my chin to look into his eyes. He waved a hand in front of my eyes. "Hey.” He laughed gently. “Are you okay? Did you hit your head?" “Oh. Sorry. No,” I said awkwardly. “I’m-I’m good…I’m fine.” I smiled. “I’m great. Just clumsy.” Someone shouted in our direction and the handsome stranger turned his head. “One second, okay?” He took a few steps towards a pickup truck parked at the edge of the lot. “There you are,” David said, grabbing my wrist and yanking me forward. “Where the hell did you go?” he asked. “Where did I go?” “You were supposed to make out with Andrew.” “What?” I turned my head. I was just drunk enough to want to make out with the handsome guy in plaid. I tried to locate the back of his head in the crowd, but David kept pulling my wrist. “I am not making out with Andrew.” “Andrew likes you.”
“Says who?” “Everybody who has eyes.” “That’s ridiculous. And I've made out with Andrew. It was not memorable." "Right, you were drunk." "Not that drunk." “Mm…” he took a deep breath. “You need to make out with someone. Break the totally depressing vow of celibacy you’ve taken—” “I haven’t taken a vow.” “Nobody goes through three years of college without so much as drunkenly hooking up with a stranger without taking vows. Or being, you know, Mormon, or something,” he indicated vaguely with one hand. He looked at me suspiciously. "And I know you're not a Mormon. One, you’re drunk and two, you’re a caffeine fiend." I took in a deep breath of the cold air and ran my hand through my hair. Something about being cold and drunk and wobbly from having tripped made me want to do something moderately crazy. “Well, there was someone over there,” I said vaguely. “Excuse me?” “There was someone…you know, cute. Over there.” I indicated over to where the stranger in plaid had been. “You think someone’s cute?” he repeated slowly.
"I've literally never heard you say that before. Where?" “Over there," I gestured. "But, I don't think—” “Where? Who? Why didn’t you say something sooner?” “Okay, you’ve got to stop yanking my arm,” I said, as he pulled me back towards where I had been when I fell. “I mean, I think you’re going to dislocate my shoulder.” The rain started with a few fat and icy drops and quickly picked up. Some people screamed dramatically and began to flee. Others cheered and turned up the music. “FUCK!” David shouted, throwing his head back. “Where is he?” “In a plaid shirt.” “Of course, you would want to make out with someone in the middle of a stampede,” he shouted at me. “I don’t want to make out with anybody!" He rolled his eyes as someone’s shoulder banged roughly into mine and he pulled me closer to him. The rain turned from soft drops to a steady stream. I shuddered as it ran down my hair and my back. The wind whistled across the parking lot and empty plastic cups skittered across the ground around my feet. “There!” I said. “He’s right there.” And he was right there, with a handful of boys who seemed totally undisturbed by the rain. He was leaning against a red pickup truck with that easy smile on his face.
He glanced up at the rain, like he was happy to see it. David pulled me closer. “Him?” “Yeah.” “Okay. Go talk to him.” “What? No.” “Yes.” He gave me a little push. “Wait, what am I going to say to him?” I asked David. “Just talk. You’re smart.” “No, no, no, no,” I said, digging in my heels, literally. “This is a bad idea. This is like…” Then, he saw us. He stood up and smiled at me. And David disappeared. “Hey!” I looked behind me to see whom the Plaid Stranger was talking to. Nobody. Or rather to me. And I was David-less and I had nothing to say. My throat closed up. “I was wondering where you went,” he said. I nodded. “Uh-huh?” Jesus, Hadley. All you can come up with is syllables? Tree branches swayed and rustled overhead. Dead leaves whipped around in circles in the parking lot. He reached me in three easy steps. I looked at his hands. That was easier than looking at him. They were stained with
grinning. cracked it open . The rain picked up." He stepped back towards the pickup and tossed me a beer. You think he’s cute. “No worries.” I nodded. So flirt. nodding up at the sky. barely. "It seems like a lot of shit like this has been happening all week. uncomfortably. sure. I got it. I looked up at the sky." I said.” “We’re going to wait it out. but that also seemed really weird. which I caught. Yeah.” he smiled.” I needed a drink. He smiled. “Yeah. Flirt. "Yeah.” he said. "We’ve got the waterproof kind of can.” he mused. too. "Rain? Or people raining on your parade?" "My tailgate. “Sorry. I looked at the handsome doe-eyed stranger and smiled. I reminded myself. Or a funny story to tell." he amended. wordlessly. I tried to open my beer. He took it. "Do you want a beer?" "It's raining. He was nowhere. Where the hell had David gone? I turned my head once more behind me. and found that my hands were scraped and shaky. That was even easier than looking at his hands was. "Okay.blue and red ink and I thought maybe I could ask him about that." I pointed out.
Anyways. this woman named Suzanne works there and she. I don't think it’s her fault. I looked up at him. In Egypt." I said. Myself. His eyes were just as soft now. rain. "I don't know. I just immediately talked myself out of believing I ever even wanted it. Actually.. unable to shut up. it's kind of her fault.well. And I feel like I was so sure of everything that it would be embarrassing to admit that things didn’t work out like I planned." "Yeah? Who’s ruined your week?" I smiled. and my life is kind of a mess. the second it didn't work out. You know? I was always the sensible one. And I hadn't hit my head. Although. I was horrified. I guess it's not actually a mess. Sorry. but I'm also drunk.and handed it back to me. all that's true. He just looked like he was listening. Or. maybe because he didn't appear to be totally horrified. "I know what you mean. And if it turns out I wasn’t sensible—and that I just deluded myself into thinking I was—I would feel like such a . That was a real thing that his eyes were actually soft." I looked at him again. Nobody. She was really nice about it. yeah. and I never really considered that maybe it wouldn't work out. it feels like a mess. But.. you're not stupid. It’s totally my fault. "Thanks. About the rain. I just thought I knew exactly what to do to get exactly what I wanted. And then. The Cairo bureau. I'm sure you know Cairo is in Egypt. like. "Sorry. I mean. I'm drunk.
"Right. "No. I kind of am a fraud. You're way too polite. but I get that feeling. You can probably tell. sheepishly.” He stepped closer. And there was something gentle about him and I was cold and drunk and it was raining and I hadn’t gotten the job and for once I felt really like I didn’t have anything to lose. that's because you have no idea what I'm talking about. by the way. I don't know about Egypt or Suzanne. It does. So. I’ve realized." "I don't think you've said anything embarrassing. I'm pretending that it's all good. You should make a face or something before I say anything really embarrassing. It makes no sense. I'm a drunk mess. "I mean. “I mean —” I stepped forward and kissed him. ." He was so goddamn handsome. But I’m a mess. He met my eyes and smiled. Well." He grinned and cocked his head.” I caught my breath.fraud. Suddenly and impulsively. “I mean." he said quietly." I shook my head and took a sip of the beer. too. And so far nobody's noticed." "Doesn't make any sense. Not knowing why you're doing what you're doing? And feeling like a fraud? I get that way sometimes. "It makes some sense.
. He stood with his hands open and at his sides. too. Because I believed. We both jumped slightly at a wild crack of thunder. soft lips press against the sensitive place underneath my chin while the cold water ran down our faces. gray sky. Mainly I just felt the way he kissed me and the firmness of his jaw and how he so obviously knew exactly what he was doing. He lifted me off the ground and I wrapped my legs around his waist and he kissed me back. laughing. Except for suddenly I was sure I had never been kissed at all. Because I had nothing to lose. I opened my eyes and looked at him. I saw his eyes dilate before I shut mine tightly. He set me onto my feet. a wide smile on his face as he watched a bolt of lightning split the streaming.Because I wanted to. I shivered. Not really. It had never been like this. he lowered his mouth to my neck and I threw my head back. I heard someone make a hooting noise. but mainly I just heard the rain falling and the people running around us and the soft sound of his breathing. Not like this. at the lightening crackling across the sky like a scar. From him or the water I couldn’t tell. letting his warm. After a moment. for once. I knew I had been kissed before. I looked up. there wasn’t anything to lose here.
Hadley?” David. though.” "Hold up!" I jumped as someone grabbed my arm. and the students. wait up!” I didn’t turn back. You’re something. DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER THE TAILGATE IS CANCELLED. who were drunk and disorderly to begin with. This was so irresponsible.” . “DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER THE TAILGATE IS CANCELLED. “Are you insane? Or have you been reading a lot of Nicholas Sparks novels?” “I don’t know. practically in a monsoon. in the arms of a strange man.He put a hand on my hip. “Let’s go. ALL STUDENTS MUST DISPERSE. I came to my senses. you know that?” He breathed. I was in the middle of a parking lot in a thunderstorm. it was just David. We both turned to see students running and flashing red and blue lights. “Police. The sirens of the campus police blared loudly. ALL STUDENTS MUST DISPERSE. The last thing I needed was to get cited by campus police for public intoxication. moved riotously towards the lot’s gate. “Hey.” someone shouted.” I shouted at him. The rain came in torrents. I stepped back from him and started to run. “Hey. “What the hell.
“Neither can I. I’m cold. “I think I’m having a heart attack.” “From sprinting. And where is Nigel?" "With Snookums. The rain was louder underneath the bridge. “Well. I leaned against the bridge’s rough brick wall.” "Do you know his name?" “No clue. evil grin. Actually.” I said breathlessly.” “We are stuck under a bridge in a rainstorm and I’m not wearing a coat and I’m wet. so fast that David couldn’t ask me any questions. When we reached the off-campus bridge.” I said.” I said.” I exhaled. "I cannot believe I did that. so fast that I couldn’t think about anything but running.” he said. Nicely done. I closed my eyes. my plan worked. “He was delicious.” he said. Not from him. If this was your plan. . which offered some refuge from the rain. Was he a good kisser?” “Yes.We ran through the rain. “Who was that?” I asked. he gave me a toothy. then you’re going to need to rethink your definition of success.” “Wow. and guess what? I’m not so drunk that I can’t feel the cold. trying to calm my heart rate and my breathing. That is good. “That was pretty hot.
I'm drunk." "Do you regret it?" No. .“That was extremely sexy. But I didn't quite want to admit that.” “Or maybe I’ll just murder you.” “Like. I only thought it had been amazing because it had been so long. "Ask me when I'm sober." "Epic. I’m going to murder you. The Notebook with a side of murder." “I’ll hurt you. almost. I wouldn’t take it back for anything.” "Shut up. either. Yep. Still. I wished I’d told him my name." I rolled my eyes. The Notebook. “You looked like you were enjoying it. I touched my hands to my lips. "Well. I didn't." I told myself I was just out of practice. I knew I didn’t want to take it back.” He laughed happily.
it would probably be explosive. I hadn't told anyone else that I didn’t get the job. He would be off-campus for the initial backlash. all through my hangover the next day and right through to the next weekend—the weekend before my very last exams. . For some members of the fraternity. it kept coming back. but Justin had followed my advice to interview other people and pulled a few telling quotes. and she said that the hospital had told her that her drink had been laced with ruphonyl. The piece was excellent. the date-rape drug. I wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened. Justin Shelter handed in his piece on alcohol poisoning on Sunday which meant it would run in the last edition of the paper. admitting that the university was only aware of the students who had been hospitalized. He had even managed to get a student health administrator on the record. Nobody from the fraternity had offered a comment. Like. Somehow. Justin had talked to one of the students who'd been hospitalized. That worked to his advantage. I thought about it almost as much as I thought about the New York Times. not where they had come from. when I felt like I was too busy to breathe. I thought about his soft lips.Chapter Four The stranger and the kiss stayed with me for an embarrassingly long period of time. His hands on my legs.
I ran through the article one last time. Last issue of the semester. checking for split infinitives and stray commas. I told myself that if I had his name the mystery would be solved and I'd stop thinking about it. But. When I was confident it was flawless. but instead I opened a new tab in my browser and logged onto Facebook. It snapped me out of my social media trance. I should have printed out my Arabic paper and read it one final time. I closed out of the editing window. uploaded the edition to our website. I liked kissing him and I wanted to know who he was. shut down my computer. I felt sorry for myself as I walked to my car in the cold. and printed my Arabic paper. And I kept doing it. Twenty fruitless minutes later. looking for him. saved all changes. And stalkerish. Done. I'd done this a few times this week: logged on and started clicking through random profiles. I told myself to get a grip—I'd be going back to San . and sent the final design files over to our printer. It was pathetic. I knew I was deceiving myself. our printers emailed me and confirmed receipt of the production files. I scrolled through the pages once more. I told myself that I'd always been an information addict and knowing nothing about the stranger I’d kissed forced me to do some research. I thanked them. I pushed back from the computer and sighed.
Last I'd heard from my mother. And it would be nice to have nothing to do for a few weeks. . she'd been dating someone new named Sol.Francisco tomorrow with David for winter break. And maybe there I could forget about the stranger in the parking lot and The New York Times. I missed San Francisco. That had been in August. but I hadn't been home since last December.
The sun is not a thing in San Francisco.” “It doesn’t say that on the Wikipedia page. “So. I snapped a photo of the issue and texted it to Justin: Looks good!! Haha. He doesn’t exist.” “They're very small." “Normally. I don’t think I fully explained the art of the drunken make out to you. “I’m packing sunglasses.” I rolled my eyes. "Don't bring sunglasses.” “Well. have you tracked down the Nicholas Sparks boy?” “That never happened. “It’s like in Northern California and you went to high school there. on a plane home. what should I pack?” .” He yawned.” he replied blandly. people introduce themselves before making out. David was packing when I got back to our apartment.” “Waste of space. "Do I need sunglasses?" “Do you know anything about San Francisco?” He looked at me blankly.” “It’s a permanent cloud. And they will help me sleep at night. Save me a copy! I cut through the library and dropped my Arabic paper in the box outside of Professor Haskell's office.Chapter Five Campus was quiet the morning Justin's article ran.
no sunglasses. and stop talking about the stranger. “Your mother is too fabulous to be casual about anything. "Just bring your fine self. Oh. They threw him out of their home when he was a junior in high school. “My mom’s pretty casual about Christmas. . but David knew they partly resented having to provide for him when they had young children of their own. I tried not to complain about my parents to David. David's had. and don't tell my mom I didn't get the job at the Times.” I said." "You didn't tell her?" "No." I smiled at him. like. He had told them he was gay. whitefaced and quieter than I'd ever seen him.“Normal clothing." I smiled. "Are we going to your church or anything?" he asked. "Do I need a suit?" "No. They were kind. And you aren’t going to either. but they had never tried to hurt me. thinking that they might find a new church—one that wasn't so homophobic. He hadn't spoken to them since. He'd lived with his sister and her husband after that. It had backfired. She'll.” He raised his eyebrows. David still made an effort—every now and again when he thought they might come around. They were annoying. He'd tried last year at Christmas and returned from break early." "Except holidays.
I got the first and only email complaining about Justin's article—from Alexander Faulk. “Like you." "So am I. We've got to get going. I'm not even sure he's gay." I checked my phone a few times on the way to the airport while David read Justin's article." I smiled." He folded the paper. if possible. though. “But.” When we reached the airport. Hi Hadley: I wanted to let you know that I saw Justin Shelter’s article in the paper.” "Well." "There are no straight boys in the GSA." I said." "He's not feisty?" “He’s quiet at first. "Good article." David replied. I'm the President of the fraternity in question. yeah. Boys." I pointed out. "This is the kid you want me to date?" "Nigel wants you to date.” He nodded. the president of the fraternity. I'd like to be able to speak on the record. He sounds feisty. you've got to look out for the quiet ones. fine.think I need to see a therapist." "He's in the GSA. "Girls. "Come on. He’s a little feisty.” I said. "Gay-straight. no. I went into my room and grabbed my suitcase. "I guess. Maybe we could do a follow-up .
San Francisco’s air was soft —humid. Alexander Faulk It was a reasonable request. It felt gentle and clean. we could post it online until we have a chance to run a piece with your statement in it in January. and I will not be able to assign a staff writer to a follow-up piece until January. Hadley I felt reassured by the reaction. the damp cooling air whispered across my neck. though. Best.piece. I squinted through the haze of headlights. if you would like to write a letter to the editor. When we stepped out from baggage claim in San Francisco. I've left campus for winter break. I tapped out a reply while we checked our bags: Alexander. I felt the tension in my neck and back dissolve underneath its soothing touch. All best. thank you for reaching out. even though I knew Justin had given them the opportunity to get on the record a half-dozen times. but almost never too hot or too cold. Perhaps he had told the rest of the brothers to let him handle it. found a . Please let me know if we could organize something. However. Let me know if you'd like to do that.
Thank you!" I smiled and paid him and turned to the door. We usually ended up in hotels or apartments when her marriages ended. please. "She never stops losing her keys. “This is pretty.” "That's what I like about Veronica. rolling my eyes. I think she has a new boyfriend named Sol. I mean. I had pretended not to care. My mother would always say: “Hadley." "Oh.cab. . the memories in that place just haunt me. Fair warning. but secretly I'd been happy. and gave the driver our address in Pacific Heights. when you lose five childhood bedrooms. really." I shrugged and rang the doorbell. darling. that's weird." I said.” "You sure it’s the right key?" "Yeah. "Yes.” David said. She really gets after it. don’t memories live in your head? We pulled up to the white-brick Georgian-style house and I yawned as the cabdriver helped carry our bags up the stairs. I smiled broadly as the door swung open. Maybe she changed the locks. memories start to sound like bullshit. I fumbled for my keys and frowned when they didn’t work. My mother had kept the house in her last divorce. "You good?" the driver asked.” But. "Well.
“Can I help you?” So. too. “What—excuse me? Are you selling something? I did not invite you in. The entire place had been redecorated. So. and too old. I flinched. Wonderful.” “I’m Veronica’s daughter. “Well. “Hi.” I held out my hand and stepped through the doorway. “I believe you’re sleeping with my mother. I nodded at the maid. I’m Hadley. Solomon was not at all what I was expecting. Way too old. the boyfriend hadn't been expecting us. He was about half-a-foot too short for my mother for a start.” I said. Okay. I looked around the foyer.A man in a maroon bathrobe. “Roy! Who are you sleeping with? What is she talking about. where is she?” The maid looked like she was going to faint. “Hi. A new maid stood by the stairs with her arms crossed. Does Veronica Mapplethorpe live here?” I . hi there. searching look.” I smiled winningly. Solomon still looked totally confused. I opened my mouth and closed it. you must be new. gave me a long. I’m Hadley. Solid start.” I said delicately. holding a newspaper. “I—um. Shit. turning red. Roy?” “What the hell are you talking about?” the man asked me. I raised my eyebrows.
“So. oh my god. “And I am most certainly not sleeping with her. This has been a huge misunderstanding.squinted. “Oh my god." "Ugh.” I said. Maybe time to make a phone call. and herding David. “What is she talking about.” I spluttered. “I am so. You have a lovely evening.” David said. His voice shook with indignation and rage. I couldn’t remember if my mother had kept Seth’s last name. who was grinning from ear to ear.” I took a step backwards.” Roy said.” “I can’t believe she didn’t tell me that she moved. Please tell me your mother actually lives in San Francisco and we aren’t homeless. gracefully pulling me out of harm’s way and closing the door. I thought—you see—I mean. “Or Veronica—” “Veronica Mapplethorpe sold us this house. so. so. grabbing my bags. young lady. “Nobody told me—there was a—” “We’re very sorry. out the door. “Oh my god. What's your actual address?" "That was it!” "Okay. Roy?” David . so sorry. oh my god.” I breathed." I said to him. "Focus.” David burst out laughing. That was hilarious.
” I said to him. honey. “Except for someone. Hadley.” David giggled. The. What. And where do you get off not telling me you sold the house?” “Oh. I reached for my phone and called my mother. heart pounding.mimicked. Hell. You have moved.” “Yes. “The little pink cards?” “IN THE MAIL? Who does that? You can’t send me a text message or an email like a normal person? You . darling. I did send you a change of address card in the mail.” “And our cab is gone!” I exclaimed.” I said as calmly as possible. Where to is what I’d like to know. not you. Hadley. named Roy lives there now. “Hello?” she answered breathily. “I’ll tell Solomon to pick you up.” “Oh. clearly.” she took a shallow breath and exhaled. I’ve moved.” “YOU SOLD OUR FUCKING HOUSE WITHOUT TELLING ME.” “Oh. where are you?” “I am at what I thought was our house.” "Are you fucking kidding?" “Oh. please don’t swear. “Veronica. “Well. darling. “This is so not funny.
Her face. tell Salmon—” “Solomon." “Whatever. yeah.” I yawned.” I firmly hit the end call button on my phone and huffed. My god.” “Whoever the fuck. “Amazing!” “Yeah. You could almost always make out the red Golden Gate Bridge through the billowing fog from my bedroom window. yeah. was on top of one of San Francisco’s many hills. I mean it.” I said. “I’m just annoyed she didn’t tell me the new address. the one I’d lived in when I graduated from high school.” he shook his head.couldn’t pick up the phone—” “Well. Hadley. David started laughing again. David didn’t speak for a moment.” I growled at him.” he finally said. Tell him to get here pronto.” . “I guess it's not that funny. “Your face. I kicked my suitcase onto its side and sat down on top of it. The house we were standing outside of. I think that’s sort of vulgar—” “You think it's vulgar to call me? Seriously?" "You never answer your phone." "That's not the point! Listen. “Sorry. His face. I gave him a severe look. You grew up there. I had loved that window. “This is so screwed up.
He offered me a hand. A black Range Rover pulled up. it felt like she had forgotten she had a daughter at all. “Nice to meet you. He wasn’t wearing a power suit.“That’s what you’re annoyed about?” he shook his head. your mom tells me you want to be a journalist?” . a friendly smile. just sneakers and jeans and a sweater. Most of the time. David raised his eyebrows at me when the window rolled down.” I took his hand and shook. “You Hadley?” “Yeah. purposeful decision.” “And this is…” “I’m David McPhee. His parents probably wouldn’t tell him if they moved. “Hadley. “I’m Sol. Sol tried to make conversation: “So. Hadley. who doesn’t tell their daughter that they moved?” He laughed softly.” Once we’d gotten our bags loaded up. Older than my mother. He got out of the car to help with our bags. quite honestly.” I said grouchily. My mother had forgotten to tell me. Solomon looked pleasant enough. “Man. but that would be a conscious.” “I mean.” David said with a friendly smile. just starting to lose his hair.
we. My mother did a lot of crazy shit. “I’m sure the next time that I come home.“Yep. He nodded. “Don’t worry about it.” I said. We had always lived in San Francisco.” he finally said.” “Hadley. I guess. how do you know my mother?” I asked casually.” he repeated. “I can’t believe she didn’t tell you!” “I can.” I said brightly. where did you say we were going?” “Belvedere.” “Holy shit. shocked. “It’s been a month since we got married. This was a fun question to ask her boyfriends. “Very cool. you know…” his voice trailed off and I smirked. “Well. “Belvedere. It always made them squirm.” David said. “So.” “So. “She—she didn’t tell you?” Sol stammered. “You got what?” “Married. I whipped my head around to look at his reflection in the rearview mirror. Belvedere was not in San Francisco. um. I was embarrassed to have David witnessing it. but this was a whole new level.” I muttered.” I said calmly.” “Where?” I demanded in outrage.” . you’ll be divorced. “It’s just outside the city.
Let me give you both a tour. Sometimes it felt like we’d lived in countless different places. but we’d only ever had one city. She kissed me on each cheek. with waterfront views.“Oh my god. Unbelievable. “So. This was a total disaster. it’s way more upsetting that you didn’t tell me at all. thank you. it’s so wonderful to see you. My mother wore a lavender shift dress and beige Chanel flats. love. That was a bigger revelation than the marriage or the house. you’re married. I literally found out from a stranger named Roy.” “Well. dear.” “Hadley. I turned on her. I’m so happy you’re here to visit.” She sighed. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me. set about an acre back. And David.” . And you’ve moved.” she said calmly. Sol’s house was gorgeous. Belvedere. “I’m sure your guest doesn’t want to hear this. “Darling. “Oh. I inhaled thinly and massaged my temples. you just always get so upset when I tell you I’ve met someone or that I’ve decided to move.” “I’ll put their bags in the guest room. When he disappeared.” I said.” she said.” “Yes.” Sol offered.
“Well.” I said. when we reached the staircase. how was the wedding?” I asked civilly.” he said. He’d had enough stressful Christmases.” my mother sniffed. why bother? How can you think.” I muttered to David once she’d left us to unpack. “That’s okay. He didn’t want to hear this.I looked at David. I gritted my teeth. “Sorry. “We just went to town hall.” “Right. I’m tired.” my mother said. and immaculate. I just want to take a shower. too. The house was beautiful. is this her fifth husband?” “Sixth. “Honestly. that it’s worth getting married for a sixth time?” He smiled and shrugged. “We’re tired. “We hardly had a wedding. after five failed marriages. big. a little bit sadly. she loves you. So. “I can show you upstairs. My mother was right.” He laughed. .” She brought us up to the guest rooms. “Maybe she loves him. “I didn’t mean to go all teenaged drama queen on you.” I shook my head. “Well. which were identically beige with sea foam accents.” I said quickly. modern.” She showed us the big kitchen with its wraparound porch overlooking the infinity pool and Sol’s dock slip down on the bay. “I kind of liked it.
I exhaled and closed my eyes. I know. “Yeah. I know. You’re right.” . I’m being a bitch. I’m over it. Totally over it. In Belvedere with my crazy family. We’ll have fun.
. . and the old Marine bases. God. Sol and my mother were still in some kind of honeymoon phase. I never seemed straight. And the people seem so happy. “I love it here.” His voice wavered for a moment. I couldn’t hide it. The water came right up to the window and David sipped lemonade and told me about South Dakota.” He sighed. “It’s so beautiful.I’ve always had the voice and the limp wrists. Being me. “I just sometimes felt like I would be crushed by it. “It's cold. “I think what bothers me most about it. the Ferry Building." He hardly ever talked about this.. but everyone knew everyone.” David said when we were walking across the bridge. He seemed raw.” he told me. Being gay. “Seriously. bundled in warm coats. I couldn't hide it. so I took David all over—to the Castro. I tried. And you know me. There’s all this wide-open space.” he said fervently. is that it made me ashamed of who I was.” Later that day. And I’m not ashamed of who I am. “And small. “I tried though.Chapter Six It ended up being the nicest break from school I’d ever had. like he was actively experiencing what it was like to be there. And it was so conservative. Golden Gate Park. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I do. we went to Greens for overpriced organic food and priceless views. Stinson Beach. It hurt to hear. though.
And I’m never going to let anybody do that to me again. blue eyes and saw the resolution there. I believed him.” I met his shining. .
“With all of the beautiful clothing you have. “You know. I ordered a burger and curly fries. “Thanks.” I fought the urge to say something snarky. “So. “And I’m very proud of your writing.” “It’s great.” I said. No matter how good the articles are. She grimaced. my mother insisted we have brunch. Hadley. Alone. but that is not just the place for me." “That may be true. I wore ripped jeans and a Free Lil Wayne t-shirt I’d gotten at a college journalism conference in Ohio.” I said.” she said.” “Don’t be ridiculous. they have really good articles in Vogue. My mother wore Prada. “I’m very proud of you. I have an old friend at Vogue. She was horrified. I feel like that might be just the place for you.” . tell me about school.” She ordered a salad with dressing on the side.” I stared at her incredulously.Chapter Seven On Christmas Eve. I can. Without David. “Because if that would make you more comfortable. “Are you kidding me?” “Well. I’m clueless when it comes to fashion. I can't believe you would choose that shirt—” “Do you want me to take it off?” I asked.
“Well. I'll email her. "Betty Sachs had so much plastic surgery I don't even recognize her anymore. You just choose to dress like…” she paused. he recommended so many. Solomon and I met at a bookstore. "I could use a book though. I will. I want to be a reporter anyways." "I like these ones." "Don't email her. She was watching a petite brunette woman out of the corner of her eyes." I followed her gaze. not a long-form journalist. "What were we talking about?" She nodded. "That’s so interesting. If I want to email my friend." I said defensively." She wasn't listening. "Shopping after lunch.” I raised my eyebrows. Anyways. he insisted on paying for .” "Okay. "Which one?" "Barnes and Noble. Mom. You need new boots." "You know. I thought he worked there. Hadley. He kept trying to tell me which books I should read. “A slob?” I suggested." "Don't tell me what to do. “A tomboy. you should think about it. but I don't want to work at Vogue. thinking for an inoffensive word." That surprised me." She looked back at me.“You’re not clueless.
" she said emphatically. really? You’re such a pretty girl. “I don’t have time for a boyfriend.” I thought about the boy in the parking lot.” I shook my head.” I said. Well. “You’re young. instead of: that’s delusional.” “That’s more David’s style.” I’d heard that before. And you’re in college.” I said. Nothing is that complicated. Have some fun—the beginning of a new relationship is the most fun. It hadn’t been fun." She looked at me dreamily.” “You’re only going to be busier after you graduate.” “Right. You can be a little reckless. “No one.” She laughed. “That’s nice. It had made my heart drop. “Let me give you some advice.them. “He’s not like any of the other men I’ve been married to. . I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” she smiled. That wasn’t the right word. but in a good way. “Are you dating anyone? I had a crush on a new boy every week when I was in college. “You won’t be able to be reckless when you’ve got a job and a family. It had been terrifying. I’d probably hear it again. "He's really the one.” I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.
Not fun. but something else almost like fun—something you felt more deeply that fun. Something that made you go weak. .
Justin’s name flashed on the screen. I just got back.” “Yeah? Where’d you go?” “London?” he sounded unsure of even that. And some of them are threatening and there’s stuff on that campus gossip blog and my roommate’s not even talking to me and —” . David had a bag full of new cooking utensils from Williams Sonoma that my mother had given him for Christmas and I had three new pairs of shoes that wouldn’t survive three minutes at a college party.. Justin. His voice shook slightly when he responded: “Okay. I-I just. taking off my shoes as I turned off the light. We hauled our bags back to our room after midnight—the flight had been delayed and then they didn’t have a gate for us. My phone woke me up before 7 AM. I collapsed into bed. I got back last night. and my back was in knots. There are all of these texts from people about the article.Chapter Eight We flew back to Evanston three days before the semester started.. “Hey. I guess. I sat up in bed. is everything okay?” “Yeah. “You sure you’re okay?” “Yeah. Um.” “What’s up? How was your Christmas?” I sat up and flipped on my bedside lamp. “Um.” I said.
“About hospitalizations from drinking. I just…I didn’t know what to do. “Hey. stay the . I got out of bed and started pulling on clothes. People are pissed off.” “Well. I swiped my ID at the door and jogged up to his room.” he said sheepishly. you’re a faggot. I shouldered into a parka and ran out the door.” he said. slow down. That’s what you’re supposed to do. too. “What’s going on?” “That article. I glanced out the window at the bleak morning. I didn’t realize it was so early. The first text I saw read.” I smiled reassuringly at him.” “You called me. I-I deleted most of them. “Sorry. “But…” His voice trailed off as he handed me his phone. It was always cold in Evanston in January. he had dark circles under his eyes. Justin lived in the freshman dorms.” he said.” “They were sending texts. I’m coming over. “I’m kind of freaking out. He looked like he hadn’t slept.“Justin. “Let me see the emails.” “Shit. We’ll figure out what to do.” I said. I’m kind of jetlagged. It looked cold.” I muttered. I had never heard back from the fraternity president after I offered to print a letter. His hair was tousled.” he said shakily. don’t do that. okay?” “Alright. bucolic stone buildings clustered on the quad. and I could see worry lines creasing his forehead. which were pretty.
I asked them to leave me alone. “Alright. Before I thought to call you. A few times. Nobody deserved to be trashed on the Internet. And they’re telling the whole world that I’m gay.” “I fucking hate that website. “Right. now there’s stuff about me on CampusRag. It was basically a disgusting mess of anonymous vitriol. and you didn’t make a mistake. “Good. I deleted my Facebook.” “Well.” I spoke authoritatively. Especially not Justin. “I just—I don’t know what to do.” “We’re not printing a retraction.” he said softly. “Retractions are for correcting mistakes. trying to keep my voice neutral. He shook his head.” I said bitterly.” “Actually…well. But.” CampusRag was a gossip blog where anonymous posters could say whatever they wanted about whomever they wanted. which is something I haven’t told most . He smiled weakly.” “But I am intimidated. “Have you responded to any of these?” I asked. “Don’t write back to them and don’t let them think you’re intimidated.” Justin insisted. “And it just made it worse…They said—they said they’d stop if we printed a retraction.” I said flatly.fuck away from our frat and don’t write any more lies about us.
” I looked into his glassy brown eyes. David would like him. When I was done.” He breathed unsteadily. “I’d like that.” “Okay. and longer on his computer.” I offered.people. I promise. “Thank you.” He smiled.” “Good. “My roommate’s a great cook. arduous process and a .” I spent a few minutes on his phone. “Do you have dinner plans?” He shook his head. forwarding the emails. He pulled off a heartbroken smile. okay? We’ll figure it out. cramped dorm room.” “I’m going to handle this. text me when you’re free.” He nodded.” he said softly. He believed me.” “Of course.” I felt less sure of myself in the hallway outside of his room. it would be hard not to. “This will look better in a few days. I looked around the small. I remembered how lonely dorm rooms could feel in the awkward days before everyone returned from Christmas break. I mean. He closed his eyes and pressed the heels of his hands to his eyelids. “Don’t freak. but it was a long. I smiled at him and squeezed his shoulders. forwarding the text messages. There were official steps I could take to report harassment. It’ll be great. “You should come over. “Okay?” “Okay.
. Faulk still hadn’t written back so I drove to the frat house. Maybe teach them some good habits. I didn’t. had gone to Romania for the break. I just didn’t have friends in fraternities. Not because I had anything against them.resolution in April wouldn’t mean much to Justin now. While I walked to my car. which meant I was allowed to disturb the uncivilized people who were still sleeping. Dean Canady. I told myself that civilized people woke up at eight o’clock. It was eight o’clock in the morning. I hadn’t been to a frat house at Northwestern. the paper’s faculty advisor. I emailed Faulk. I parked across the street and walked as confidently as I could up the porch stairs to the front door. Plus. I sat in the car turned on the heat and waited for him to write back. yellow and clapboard. alerting him of the situation. After a Miley Cyrus song and three commercials on the radio. I’ve never been the world’s most patient person. I scrolled through my emails until I found the one from Alexander Faulk. But this felt personal. The frat house was charming. I fired off a quick email to him from my phone. and letting him know I was looking for the quickest remedy. It was hard not to hold a grudge against the organization responsible for bullying Justin. asking when he would be available to speak.
Who the hell ordered pizza at eight o’clock in the morning anyways? “Shit. “Hello?” I called out. Hang on. I thought. Just leave the pizza on the counter. How does anyone live like this? I hit the doorbell again and then knocked loudly. I thought of Justin. which would have been inviting if it weren’t carpeted with crushed beer cans and cigarette butts. “I’m not delivering pizza. Confront it head on. Nobody responded. “There’s money in the kitchen. “Hello?” I shouted. I took a breath and knocked once more. buttoning a red plaid shirt. but uncluttered. The wide entryway was dusty. “YO! Just come in. my heart stopped.” I shouted back. Man to man. . where the TV was on. I took a breath and remembered that I was here in a professional capacity. This is revolting.” He came down the stairs. When he looked up.” the same rumbling voice called. and the French doors to my left were flung open to an empty lounge. I pushed open the creaking door. a little louder. Just do it. Like an adult.I rang the doorbell and looked at the wide porch. It’s unlocked!” someone shouted over the faint sound of music. Justin. Woman to man.
rolling. I took half a step backwards like fleeing back to my car was an option. “Gotcha. I bit my tongue watching him.” “Hadley Arrington. but you are very. “I really never did catch that name. He laughed.” “Ah. is Alexander Faulk here?” “You mean Xander? No. and pleasant sound. And God he was the last person I wanted to see right now. “Hadley Arrington. I had very recently concluded that you were some sort of rainstorm mirage.” I nodded. Never happened.” “I’m not a mirage. He’s not back from Minnesota yet. He ran his hand through his damp hair. In fact.” My eyes quivered in their sockets. I knew the easiest solution to my problem would’ve been asking you. “Listen. Just do it.” he repeated my name with a .” he said softly. he looked good. absolutely itching to roll. No. Pretend you never kissed him.” He smiled wider. God.” I said flatly. It was a low. “I bet that’s what you tell all the boys. very hard to find. Hadley Arrington. “Well. He slid his hands into his pockets and smiled at me.It was the boy from the tailgate who I had kissed. I told myself.
” “Well. and came the rest of the way down the stairs.” he said with a cocky grin. that was just spectacular. I’m not being very helpful.” I muttered. He sat down on the steps and tied one of his sneakers. He was the fraternity’s vice-president. he ran a hand through his hair and stood up. Everyone calls me Jack. you seemed a lot happier about seeing me the last time we met. Um. “You remember me. “That’s actually me.” Well. “What’s your name?” I asked. “I have to say. “Yes. “Well. praying his name didn’t belong to one of the email addresses I’d culled from Justin’s inbox. since I’m not here to make friends. is John Diamond here?” I asked. Jack smiled again. When I didn’t return the smile. I looked at him. “Great.wolfish grin.” I flushed. I was drunk. right?” I nodded. Xander’s not here. He cocked his head. “You honestly don’t want to know my name?” he asked. But I could give you his phone number. Are you okay? You don’t look like you were expecting to see me. “You weren’t that drunk.” His eyes twinkled.” . And the person I’d have to confront about it. And therefore at least partially responsible for this. “I’m sorry. “Jack.” Unfortunately.
I’ll forward you the emails.” I said. what are they doing?” “Juvenile. I sat down across from him.” he said. Resolve the problem.” He gave me a defeated look.” He got up and I heard his footsteps on the stairs. I’m sorry…You want to talk over here?” He led me into a study room off of the foyer. “Told who?” “Our sophomore class.animals.” He ran his hand over his face. yeah. We told them to leave it alone. “So. He quickly closed the open sketchbooks on one of the bigger tables and placed them on the floor. “Okay. Let me grab my computer. “One of my staff writers is being harassed by members of your fraternity. I’m not here to discuss tailgate. “Christ. They’re all motherf…. “Damn. I focused on the crooked dartboard hanging on the wood-paneled wall. sure. Uh. He shook his head. He rested his chin on one hand thoughtfully. cyber-bullying crap. “Seriously?” “Seriously.“How would you know?” I demanded.” “Yeah.” “Well. “Anyways. .” His smile faded completely. Be professional.” His smiled faded a little. they’re not leaving him alone. Shit.” “Oh. what are you here to discuss then?” “I’m the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Northwestern.
I know.” I said formally. I mean. Xander either. Neither of us even had known about it. That’s why Xander emailed you. though. we were all really freaked out when we saw the article. this is clearly crossing the line. Justin emailed you both.” He ran a hand through his hair and put his screen down. he looked grim. I was and I know Xander was. “As you can see. “And I told him he could. and I’m not so good with emails.I forwarded the material to his email address while he went to get his computer. asking for a statement. He wasn’t listening to me. Our sophomore class is really out of control. shit. you were repeatedly contacted with a request for a comment.” Jack winced. that’s fine. “Ah. Honestly. But this shit has to stop. “And while I understand that members of your fraternity didn’t like the facts that were printed in Justin’s article. He . I told you that we’d do that. His eyes were glued to the screen and he clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth regretfully. “If there’s an update. “This is not—this is not something I knew about. When he came back. I let Alexander know he could talk to Justin and clarify your position…” My voice trailed off.” I took a deep breath. if you’d like us to print a statement.” I said. He wanted to explain. “Yeah. “We’re looking into the roofie thing. by the way.” he said wearily. that’s not the point.” “Look. Xander is crazy busy.
It happened here.” “I’ll talk to the guys.” He looked at me.” “I’m confused?” “They voted for me because they were stoned. It happened.wrote an article about student health and you guys are making his life hell. but none of you would. “You’re confused.” I said. He tried to get a lot of you to talk to him.” My voice sounded brittle and harsh to my own ears. “I don’t want you to talk to the guys. “I mean. But this is like a few random kids. I’m not going to let you bully one of my staff writers out of school. I’m not saying it’s not awful. It is.” “The position exists for a reason. You know what the vice-president of a frat does? Nothing. and not doing . or else they can deal with the administration. I want you to let the guys know that they can either apologize and take down the posts on CampusRag and stop emailing him.” “Hey.” He shook his head.” “When you’re the head of an organization. “I’m not bullying anyone.” He cleared his throat. He didn’t make this stuff up. it needs to stop.” “Well.” he said indignantly. This isn’t a fraternitywide effort.” “No. I didn’t want to hear about Jack’s lack of culpability. “I’m not behind this. “He wrote an article. you’re responsible for its actions. I would never say any of this shit.
I nearly trusted them. Hadley. “Sorry. But I. honestly. would reappear like this.” I said tersely. I dropped my eyes and stood up. I had expected more of a fight. the random person I happened to notice.” “I’ll take care of it. I really appreciate it.” He nodded. I slipped on my coat. calm. If you’d get it to stop. “Great.anything when the organization you’re in charge of is bullying a kid makes you culpable. He’s a nice kid. It struck me as sad that the stranger I kissed at a tailgate. I sounded like a bitch. feeling like an idiot. had missed that lesson. Shouldn’t get into their cars. You definitely shouldn’t kiss them. “You don’t believe me?” I shrugged. “I never said that.” I said. . and for some ridiculous reason.” He met my eyes. Shouldn’t listen to them. He was staring at me. “I’ll take care of it. I twisted my lips and snuck a look at Jack. I took a breath and exhaled. Shouldn’t take candy from them. I’ll get it to stop. Or chosen to ignore it. I just—I don’t know. Everyone knows you shouldn’t trust strangers.” he repeated. As someone who was involved with an organization that was hurting someone I cared about. Thanks. They were cool. Hadley Arrington.” “Look. Most people learn this in kindergarten.” “Good.
“So.” he said. can I ask you to dinner or is that going to piss you off?” “I don’t think now’s a good time to talk about dinner. maybe.” I stepped out of the door. “Sorry. When we reached it. this is really bad timing. He looked at me. that’s a shame.” He walked me to the door quietly.” he said. “That’s too bad. Bad timing. I’m sorry. “Oh. He held his hands up where I could see them.” He smiled. though?” he said. he set a hand lightly on my back.” he said.“Thanks for taking the time to meet with me. “Yeah.” “What’s bad timing?” “This. He bit his lip. “After tailgate I spent a while trying to figure out who you were. “Why’d you kiss me?” . no worries.” “For you. Really. definitely.” “It’s always bad timing. Well.” I said seriously. I know. I jumped.” “Probably because I don’t ordinarily act like that. “Can I ask you a serious question. “Sorry about this. But nobody could tell me.” “Yeah.” He laughed. “Look.” I said.” “For me. sorry.
as something else crossed his face. “He dared me to kiss someone.” I stared at the mixture of surprise and hurt on his face and swallowed.” I flushed. and I pulled the door shut before I could say anything else. “My roommate dared me.” He nodded.I shrugged. “I mean. but enough to know that what I said had been hurtful. “Ha.” I swallowed. “I should’ve thought of that. Of course. And I chose you.” His face changed. He’d leave me alone if I left now. I put my hand on the door to keep him from closing it. Not dramatically. He laughed. of course. . I wouldn’t like the unsteadiness in my stomach. But.
he just asked me to see a movie.” .” “Well.” “Wait-what?” “He asked me to go see a movie with him. “What happened to you?” “You first. and handsome.” he said simply. He was curled up on the couch with a book and a cup of tea.” I said. “He asked me out. close enough. I yawned. “Tall. We were lab partners.” I opened one of the cabinets in our kitchen and rummaged around for tea bags. “You’re telling me. And I was in love with him junior year.Chapter Nine “You will never believe what happened.” David said. I waited for the name to ring a bell.” he corrected. What’s up with him?” “I saw him today.” “That’s it?” “No. I shook my head and walked to the kettle. “Soccer player. right? You were in love with him for a whole month sophomore year. “Ben Mitchell. “We had chemistry together last year. I cocked my head and snapped my fingers.” I said. He smiled at me. that’s not it. which was still steaming. And when I ran into him at the grocery store today. dark.” “Football player.” crowed David when I walked through the door.
Hadley.” David said. I’m making lasagna. “Yeah. “As previously discussed.” “Hope you didn’t make any promises. right?” “Yeah. He’s dreamy. I’m not going to hide my real identity. he’s still in the closet. From the paper.” he said. “Just the two of you?” “Yes.” “Can you make it for three? I asked Justin over.” I said. he’s dreamy. “You’ll still be around for dinner. David waved away the comment with his hand.” I didn’t like the idea of David being someone’s dirty little secret.” “If you say so. “No. Especially after what he told me in San Francisco about never allowing anyone to make him feel ashamed of who he was again. the Justin that Nigel wanted me to go out with?” “Yes. He can do whatever he wants. but. “Plus.” “Ah. Dreamy. just the two of us. “You seriously think he’d ever invite me to hang out with his friends?” “Is he…out?” I asked cautiously. I mean—isn’t that a big headache? Dating someone who’s hiding his real identity?” I asked cautiously.I hesitated. Because I . but I don’t really care.
It’s Justin I’m worried about. “Yeah. It was so unbelievably awkward.” “What did he say? I mean. yeah. I found out who I made out with at tailgate.” I exhaled. You have . And?” “So. “Terrible. That’s terrible. “But. I mean.” “What happened? “Well.” “Oh my god. David clucked. And I’m not going to even think about kissing another boy until I have a job. And that he’d take care of it. I went over there to find the president and see if he’d get everyone under control and he wasn’t there. I had the craziest morning. was he behind it?” “No. So. I just invited him for dinner.” “I didn’t. Hads.” I waved away the apology. “Please. who knows what that means?” “I’m sorry.cannot cancel on Ben.” I shook my head.” “Oh my god! Details!” I made a face. “That was just bad luck. remembering. the Lambda Pi sophomores have been harassing Justin ever since it published.” “Yeah. “His name is Jack Diamond and he’s the vice-president of Lambda Pi. but Jack was. basically. That frat that Justin wrote a piece on?” David nodded.” I rolled my eyes. he said he wasn’t behind anything.
I don’t want a boyfriend. I need a job.to put yourself out there.” I shook my head. “Long-term monogamy just doesn’t run in my family.” .” “No. I don’t need that kind of drama right now.
too. David cooks every Friday night.” Justin giggled. David looked at Justin’s row of misshapen zucchini slices. too. “That’s my ride!” He planted a kiss on my cheek and gave Justin a loose hug and flounced out the door before Justin could ask where he was going. he wore a big. “You should come over next week. “I’d like that. but an eager apprentice and he laughed every time David threw his hands up at his attempts to dice tomatoes or roll out dough or butter a pan. But David just . as we were clearing dinner.” Justin nodded. and when he did. I could tell he was disappointed when David left abruptly. Usually. “Is this supposed to be an abstract art project? I want nice. I was pretty sure David would lose his interest in Ben Mitchell quickly. foolish grin on his face that made me like Ben Mitchell a whole lot more.Chapter Ten David and Justin hit it off right away. David gushed with details about what he wore and what he said and what he liked and what he didn’t like. Justin was a hopeless cook. “He’s a spaz. It’s his way of achieving mindfulness.” I told Justin. Something else was different. evenly sliced circles.” David didn’t come home until the next morning. Anyone who could make David smile like that was okay by me.
You know. don’t say anything to anyone. just pretend you don’t know him. “Oh. if you see him … Well. um—I know you’re not gossipy or anything. “Why doesn’t he want your friends to know? You’re out. it would be a huge amount of scrutiny and—” “You can’t just tell him that your friends are trustworthy?” .” he smiled. So. you know. that I already told you. if you see him. And then I realized. And it’s a big deal. if you’re speechless. His face fell slightly. so I can get my pancakes. um. “Details?” “Everything was just…” he sighed.hummed happily when I asked him if he had fun. “Oh. “What did you do?” “He’s really great. Hadley. “Next time. “Okay…” “And. “Well. but he’s still in the closet. I grinned at him. I bit into the granola bar I’d been forced to eat because David hadn’t been home to make breakfast. Okay?” I was about to nod my agreement.” I said selfishly. He’s on the football team. but I promised Ben I’d keep everything under wraps. That’s not a secret. when I stopped myself.” I raised my eyebrows. I told him I hadn’t told anyone. have him sleep over. it was wonderful. it must have been pretty special.” “Obviously.” I said. So.” he said simply.
could you please just not say anything?” he pleaded.“Hadley.” I nodded and returned my focus to the USA Today job application that a Northwestern professor had sent over to me. D. “But you should be able to tell your friends.” “I’m sure. I tried not to say something stupid or controlling. .” I said.” “If you’re sure. Just because he’s in the closet doesn’t mean you need to keep him a secret. I like him. “I’m okay with that. though I was sorely tempted to point out that Ben was asking him for a fairly significant sacrifice.” David shrugged. Bureau. reporting on domestic politics. “I’m not going to say anything. but it would be a good experience— working at the Washington.C. It wasn’t a perfect fit—not like the Times job in Cairo had been.
I was buying my textbooks for class, muttering at the $130 list price on the new Arabic textbook, when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but I did recognize the area code. 917. New York. It had to be my father responding to my request to transfer money for books. My mom responded more quickly to these things. But I liked to make my dad do it. He hardly had to do anything else for me and he could more than afford my books. “Just in time, Dad,” I said. “Actually, this is Jack.” Note to self: New York is big. Sometimes people with 917 area codes are not your father. They are sometimes Jack Diamond. “Sorry. I thought…I just called my dad and I didn’t…never mind. What’s going on?” He was laughing. He needed to stop that. “Sorry,” he said. “This is serious. I should be serious. We had a meeting last night—the frat. Granted, not everyone’s back from break, but we told everyone to take everything down and let Justin be. They went back and deleted their comments from CampusRag.” He took a breath. “I want you to know how sorry I am. I want you both to know that—you and Justin. We’re not that cohesive of a group, so it’s hard to know what everyone is doing all the time, but we should’ve taken control of the situation
from the beginning. I’m sorry we didn’t and I’m sorry Justin had to deal with that because we didn’t.” As far as apologies went, it was pretty good. I was impressed. Most people never took responsibility for their actions and even fewer people took responsibility for the actions of others that they could’ve prevented. I took a breath. “Thank you,” I said. “I’m grateful. Really. I know Justin will be.” “Yeah, no problem,” he said. I balanced another textbook on top of my stack. “I’m at the bookstore, so I should go, but seriously, thanks a lot, Jack.” “Yeah, sure.” He was quiet. “Well, I guess, I’ll see you around,” I said. “Actually—before you go. Would you want to get dinner sometime? Or do I have to wait for your roommate to dare you again?” I would’ve laughed if I hadn’t been so startled. “Um, what?” He chuckled. “Dinner? Would you want to go to dinner sometime? Can I ask you out?” “Ah, look, I’m at the bookstore.” “Oh, I got it. I heard about that law. You can’t agree to go on a date with anyone when you’re at a bookstore.” “I don’t think I’m available,” I managed to say. He didn’t sound at all displeased. More than
anything, he sounded amused. “Ever? You are never available for dinner? Wow.” “Well, I just…I don’t know. I’m not really into dating people right now,” I said. Or ever, I added silently. “Well, who said anything about a date? Maybe I just want to have dinner with you. Maybe I think you’d be a fantastic conversationalist.” “I doubt that, somehow,” I said. “Why?” I could hear him smiling. “Because in our first conversation, I was drunk and made no sense.” I looked around to see if anyone was listening. “And in our second conversation, I yelled at you.” “You didn’t yell. You spoke persuasively.” “Well, it’s not a good idea,” I said. “It just seems like things are rapidly devolving from not making sense to anger and then like, the third conversation we have could end terribly, you know?” He laughed again. “Stop laughing. I’m serious.” “You’re scared that our third conversation will devolve? Into what? Silence? That would be awkward, but I bet we could survive it.” “I really don’t have the time to date anyone right now,” I said. That sounded believable. It was certainly true. “Aw, I’m not going to give up that easily,” he
smiled. “You’re the one who started it. You shouldn’t have kissed me like that if you wanted to be left alone.” “I—” “I’m going to swing by,” he said adamantly. “We can hang out. That’s a good idea. No dinner. Anti-date date.” “I mean, maybe.” “What are you doing tonight?” “Nothing, but—” “Great. I’ll swing by tonight.” “No, I don’t think you understand. I said dinner wasn’t good for me.” “I thought you said dating wasn’t good for you. We won’t have dinner. It’ll be a non-dinner, non-date hangout session.” “I don’t even know what that means.” “I just want to talk to you,” he said casually. “Why?” He laughed. “What?” “I think you’re fascinating,” he said, the same wry amusement coursing through his voice. “I’ll stop by tonight.” He hung up before I could say anything else.
Truthfully, I had been curious as to whether Jack actually would stop by that night. And I was oddly anticipating it, even though I thought it was a terrible idea. My fingers drummed on the countertop. The responsible thing to do would be to tell him that this was insensible, that it could never work, and that I wasn’t the kind of girl who could handle dating a boy like him. Or any kind of boy at all. But, eight came and went, and I gnawed on leftover chicken, getting ready for classes to begin. It looked like he wasn’t coming. I was about to change into my pajamas when there was a knock at the door. I froze, then strode purposefully to the door and opened it. Whatever I had been thinking of saying went right out of my head when I saw him. “Hey,” he said. He wasn’t smiling, though his eyes were twinkling, and he bit his lip when he looked at me. When he was standing this close to me, I had to look up into his face, which made him seem both taller and more handsome. “Hi,” I said, and then I remembered I was annoyed. “It’s almost nine.” He raised his eyebrows. “Do you have a curfew or something?” “We have class tomorrow.” He smiled. “Does that mean you turn into a pumpkin at midnight?” I looked at him blankly.
“Vampire? Or, no, werewolf. Tonight’s supposed to be a full moon. Can I come in?” He walked into the apartment, not waiting for an answer, and looked around. “Nice place.” “I didn’t say you could come in,” I said. He smiled. “You’re funny.” “That wasn’t a joke.” “No, I mean, you’re funny. Like, you were superhot in the parking lot and now you’re super-cold.” He glanced at me. “I’m talking in degrees of emotional warmth, not physical attractiveness. You’ve been consistently hot throughout, in terms of attractiveness.” “Is that supposed to be a compliment?” He chuckled. “Not really. Although, with most girls, you can say pretty much whatever you want if you conclude by saying they’re hot.” “You must know some pretty dumb girls.” “I do,” he said. “But, I know you now. That’s got to cancel at least two dumb girls out.” “It doesn’t work like that.” “How do you know what it works like? Are you the police of dumb girl cancellation?” “No, but it doesn’t work like that. Nobody gets to cancel anybody else out.” “Maybe they do. Maybe every stupid person you know cancels out every smart person you know and every good person you know cancels out every evil person you
know.” “That’s right. That’s probably why everyone forgot about Jesus and Hitler, and just remembers their uncancelled out contemporaries Average Jane and Average Joe,” I said. He laughed. “I meant people I actually knew. Did you actually know Hitler? Maybe you are going to turn into a vampire at nine o’clock.” I rolled my eyes. “You want to do something. Not go on a date?” “Yeah,” I said. “Let’s…” I looked around my apartment. “Go do something.” I grabbed my coat from my bedroom and came back into the living room. Jack was studying a photograph on the wall. It was a picture David had taken one early spring morning when we’d gone walking by the lake. My back was turned to David and you could only see part of my face. “Cool picture. That’s you, right?” I nodded. “David took that.” “David?” “Roommate.” “Ah.” He smiled and raised his eyebrows. “The one who dared you to kiss a stranger?” “Yes.” “David sounds like the man. The last time I encouraged girls to make out with strangers like me, I
almost got arrested.” I smiled and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “So, what exactly constitutes a not-date?” he asked. “I don’t know. Isn’t this your idea?” “You don’t know?” he laughed. “How the hell am I supposed to know if you don’t know?” I shrugged. “I don’t know. Going for a drive or something.” “A drive!” he laughed. “What?” He shook his head. “Nothing. Let’s go for a drive.” He followed me out of the apartment and down the stairwell to the parking lot. I stole a look at Jack. He caught me staring and smiled back. “So,” he said, as I got into his car. “Where do you want to drive to?” I shrugged. “I don’t know. Around. I could use ice cream.” He didn’t say anything about how cold it was or how far we were from Ben & Jerry’s or how it was probably too late to go anywhere. “I could do ice cream.” There was a long awkwardly silent stretch of time, after which I demanded, “So, why did you want to talk to me anyways?” “Why did you kiss me in the parking lot?” he asked
” There were plenty of questions I wanted to ask. you’re not going to find it with me. David dared me. I ran a hand through my hair.” He stole a glance at me. although I was certainly acting like it.” I said.” I said. “Fair enough.” “I’m not that uptight. so.” “Oh. “You weren’t that drunk. really.” He laughed. You’re a reporter.” He looked over at me. But there were plenty of other things I could already tell . Just not. “You’re allowed to ask questions. okay.playfully. But then you said you chose me. I can assure you that we have nothing in common. And I can also assure you that whatever you’re looking for. “Why don’t you ask me a question?” “That’s okay.” “Was that your only question?” I asked. there’s something you want to know.” He laughed. “I told you. “So. and now I’m not allowed to ask questions. so what is this ? Because I really don’t know. Surely.” “You don’t know what I’m looking for. first you’re annoyed I only have one question.” “Right. Why?” “I was drunk. “Okay.” “Not this. “Because. come on. what is this?” “It’s none of your business.
” I said.she worries a lot. no. “I can tell. You?” “Yeah. She’s very sweet about it. “Seriously?” I shrugged. so you wouldn’t have to ask them. Only half of being a good reporter was asking the right questions. completely. a little bit sadly. He’s older.” . “He never even beat me up. “I mean.” “What’s that like?” he asked.” He grinned at me. “I just don’t fear independence. you’re not a lonely narcissist who can’t get along with anyone?” “Oh.” “So. um…” he thought for a moment and cleared his throat.” I laughed. The other half was noticing details. I’m definitely that. unfucking-believably perfect.” I turned my head and watched the road through the window. It makes me nauseous. She worries so much about me that I start worrying about her. She seems vulnerable.” He laughed. “You don’t have to answer it. “She’s very warm. “You must hate his guts.” I said. Perfect. “Not as bad as they told you. And…. “No. “What’s your mother like?” He looked over at me quickly. “Okay. “No. Really.” I said. I have a brother.” “What’s your brother like?” “Perfect. I’m an only child. “Are you an only child?” I asked.” he said.from looking at him.” He smiled. “Totally.
“He went to the Naval Academy and then to Harvard Medical School and now he’s a trauma doctor over there. “God. That kind of thing. because he’s a doctor. “You’re not holding back.“Nah. “What do you fear?” He laughed.” He shook his head. He says it’s okay. “He’s…serious. But not anymore.” he said. “So.” he said.” I smiled.” “What out?” “Myself. “You know. you seem kind of serious. And jellyfish. What are you most afraid of?” “Probably dependency. But I think I’m most scared of never figuring it out.” “Dependency on what?” he asked curiously. And my brother —as a bonus. Eels. Let me see. I tilted my head sideways.” He rubbed his chin. in high school a little bit. How long as he been there?” “Not too long. Can’t stand ‘em. He’s not that close to combat. I think it’s been about a year and a half now. What else you got?” he asked.” He smiled. He’s pretty safe. Well. He grinned.” he said. You’d like him. never figuring out what’ll make me really happy. He’s in Afghanistan now. “He’s a doctor for the Navy. that’s what my mother is like. "Drugs?" .” “Why do you say that?” “Well. “I don’t actually.
Then he looked at me.” I said. actually. I won’t go on a date with you because I don’t want to go on a date with you. “Alright.” “You’d rather be alone forever than need anyone?” “Yeah.” “Dependency on people is the thing you’re most afraid of? You realize that dependence on other people is like the way the world spins. how does this work? Are you moving towards going all Into the Wild post-graduation? Heading out into the woods and living alone?” “No. don’t you? You didn’t build your own car and write your own textbooks. I like being alone. “Yeah.” “Wow. I said I was scared of it. ever.” I shrugged.” “That’s why you won’t go on a date with me?” “No.” “That makes you happy? Being alone?” “Yes. “It’s just my answer.” he said. “I meant emotional dependence more than anything else. So. .” I said.” I said.” I grumbled. Or anyone else.“People. “I’m good at being alone. I know it doesn’t make sense. “You’re serious?” “Yeah. did you?” “I didn’t say it was rational.” He let out a short bark of laughter.
I could fix that though. you know.” “Listen.” “How am I arrogant? “What kind of person gives sex one chance and decides it’s not for them?” “This kind. thinking back to how I lost my virginity in high school in Luke’s parents’ guest house.” He shook his head.” “Excuse me?” He looked at me.” He smiled. “Excuse me?” “What about sex? People are sexual. They have needs. you would be. “I mean. It had gotten better. he definitely did it wrong. somewhat.” “He did it just fine.” He was .“And what about sex?” I could feel the flush creeping down my neck. “No.” “Right back at you. “Which is criminal. You have needs. impressed. “What? I’m being serious. biting back a grin.” “He wasn’t doing it right then. but it had never been amazing. that’s a little arrogant.” “You’re extremely arrogant.” I said. if I were so lucky as to have the chance to sleep with you. and how it had been mostly awkward and painful and way too bright in that room. “But. I’ve had sex.” he said. And I wasn’t impressed.
I didn’t want anyone to think he had a point. “Honestly. It’s ancient history.” “When?” “What’s it to you?” “Tell me when. “I mean. you think sex is overrated. I said I wasn’t impressed. I’m not at all. “It’s really not a big deal.” “Was the last time you had sex?” I flushed.” he said. “No. mostly. He looked at me. “I didn’t sleep with anyone else after that.” “I’m not. I’m just telling you what’s true.” I shrugged. you’re so sure of yourself.” he said.” I took a breath.teasing.” He cocked his head.” “I’m sorry. The sex was fine. I just think he was doing it wrong.” “That’s an extremely personal question. “Did you have a bad experience or something?” I took a breath. I wasn’t crazy about it. “Junior year.” he said. But I broke up with the boy and he told everyone I was easy. “You don’t have to tell me.” I .” He met my eyes. That’s bullshit. I had sex. He shook his head.” “Do what?” “Make fun of me. “Don’t do that.” “I didn’t say it was overrated. “Damn. then.
” “It’s got a lot less to do with him than you think. the thing about that though.” I said. “Well. .” He jerked the wheel and pulled off the road. He nodded seriously. Pulling over on the side of the road is a serial killer move. “Well.” “What are you doing?” He undid his seatbelt and leaned across the seat and kissed me again. “I barely know you.said. “What are you doing?” He put the car in park wordlessly. I’m sorry to disappoint you. staring at him. “Excuse me?” I repeated. Without asking. and monogamy doesn’t exactly run in my family and—” “You don’t want to depend on anyone?” “Exactly. but sometimes they do. “Yeah. Even on a dare. without anything that seemed like a warning. is that people who don’t ever want to depend on anyone. I could see why you might not want to date people after that.” I met his warm. see. people who don’t ever want to be touched. brown eyes.” “I’m not a serial killer.” I said. they don’t jump into a stranger’s arms in the rain. “I don’t have the time. They searched me and I looked away.
“Do you want me to stop?” he repeated. I shook my head slightly. flannel .” he whispered. “Wait. more seriously. I leaned in. He kissed my neck. He slid one hand under my loose. Even when I was sober. I was surprised at the way my spine arched towards him and the way I wanted him to slide his warm hands farther down my ribs to my hips. and I could feel my pulse racing underneath his lips. I wanted him to kiss me.He kissed me deeply and instead of pushing him away. I exhaled heavily and didn’t say anything.” He pulled his head back and looked into my eyes. I put my hand over it. He leaned back and stared at me. When his hand slipped under my shirt. Even when I knew how much most relationships messed up your life. wild-eyed and unsure of everything except for a single fact: I liked being kissed by him. cool against my hip. He coaxed me over to his side of the car. Even when I knew he was in a fraternity with a bunch of idiots. pulling my wrist. so that I was straddling him. but it made me shiver. I was surprised at the whimper that escaped my lips as he moved his mouth down my neck. stop. “You want me to stop?” He kept his hand there. spread on my hip—not a particularly sexual or private place. He pressed his lips to mine and undid my seatbelt. “C’mere.
My bra fell with it and I looked down at him. pulsating with the electricity of his touch everywhere. the light catching in his eyes. His thumb ghosted across my nipple and I bit my lip. “This okay?” he whispered.shirt and up my ribs. He continued rubbing his thumb softly across my breast. I exhaled a shaky breath. but it ran up and down my leg. I closed my eyes and dropped my head to his shoulder. and his lips kissed their way from my mouth to my neck. The friction was gentle. He unhooked my bra strap and kissed me again. He kissed my neck. “Christ. I pressed my hips more closely to his. His other hand rubbed along the side of my leg. I shivered as he slipped the straps down my arms. He nipped at my lip and at my neck while he unbuttoned my shirt. I hid my face in his neck. through my jeans. Jack…” I whispered. He kissed me again. and then he broke the kiss and smiled. He ran both of his hands up my ribs. He gently slipped the shirt down my arms. as his hand stroked my shivering stomach. Every brief movement travelled like an electrical current up and down my spine. bitingly. softly and then firmly. . and cupped one breast gently. and laughed lightly. I nodded once.
” I said. “Wait.” He chuckled. “Yeah.” He dropped his hot. his eyes twinkling. Okay. I managed it on my second try. pressing myself forward. “What?” “I like you. very close to my heart. you know that?” “You said that. And it’s fast. “It’s true. He handed me my bra. arching my back.” I whispered. remembering tailgate. “You’re the best person I’ve met all year.“You’re something.” I suddenly felt embarrassed. .” He nodded. I could feel his arousal through his jeans as he gently manipulated my breast with his tongue. He groaned as I lifted myself off his lap and scooted back into the passenger’s seat. This is fast. He stopped. in between my breasts. He put a hand to my chest. damp mouth to one breast and I arched my back. “This is…we’re on the side of a road. sitting back and looking away and holding my shirt in front of my breasts. “I bet you say that to all the girls.” I met his eyes. “Wait?” he repeated. lifting his head. his hair sticking up where I’d grasped it in my hands. and pulled on my shirt. My hands shook as I tried to clasp it with one hand. I grabbed fistfuls of his hair.” he said. He smiled.
” “I wanted to make sure I was right. I could be an alcoholic for all you know.” he said. . “It’s unattractive. too. That’s fine. “What was what?” “You pulling over like that. I went from breathless and turned-on to flat-out annoyed that I let a practical stranger feel me up on the side of the road.” He pulled the car back onto the road.” “Don’t gloat.” He laughed.” he said. “Right. “You were saying something about not wanting to kiss me.We were both quiet.” “I could be a drunk right now. I looked away. very mistaken. I was saying something about you being a serial killer. He cleared his throat. He had caught my gaze and I let myself stare for a second.” I said. you like it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t hang out. “What was that?” I demanded when we reached Ben & Jerry’s.” “Look.” he said. Then.” He smirked. towards ice cream. “That’s not the point. “And how you only kissed me because you were drunk. “About what?” “About the fact that I really like kissing you. you don’t want to date anyone.” “Actually. And unless I’m very. I think. While we drove.
” “With benefits?” He laughed at the suggestion. why don’t we not date?” “And do what?” “Hang out. with a smile. Because the way we kiss is insane.” He smiled.” “I know. “But—” “But you’ve got a hang-up.” “Yeah.” “Chemistry?” “Sexual chemistry. We could be friends. but if we did…” he shrugged. “Look. Don’t you think?” “I haven’t kissed enough people to know. too. I believed him. Although we do have good chemistry.” “Well.” I said.“And do what? Make out?” I demanded. sure. I have.” he said.” Jack said matter-offactly. I want to take you on a date. “There are other things we could do. I don’t know. Without benefits.” “We haven’t had sex. We can be friends. I want to buy you dinner. “It would probably be mind-blowing. “So. Not just that we could have mindblowing sex. “I mean. “We can have fun without getting engaged. but that we could be friends. Get ice cream. That maybe I . And it is.” He nodded. you know? We can have fun without even dating. I hear you.
" I said. "I asked you first. nicknames. "We should probably have some rules. “Why?" “This feels like a trap. “No dates. seriously?” “Yeah. or Taylor Swift concerts. I’m not doing your laundry. Definitely no flowers.” I said. Not at all. No romantic comedies. chocolate.” He laughed." I said. I wasn't joking." "Fine.” “Like what?” “No presents.” He looked at me closely. I cocked my head.” I said. Are you?" We looked at each other. were you joking?" “No. No buying me drinks. or coming to your formal. Wait. “You’re serious?” “Yes.could have a no-commitment fling with a handsome guy who I actually really. “Wait. "No. “Okay.” “Why?” “Because you just made it against the rules to do any of the things that every guy doesn’t want to do with his girlfriend. baby talk. Don’t ask me to. really liked. making you cookies. No sleepovers.” “Okay what?” “Let’s be friends with benefits. No Valentine’s Day.” . No saying I love you.
"Yeah.” “This is definitely a trap. He started laughing to himself when he’d finished his. I know." .” “I won’t call you babe.” “You can say crazy. “Yeah.” I said. He nodded. “Nothing.” “Do you have anything to add?” I asked. We sat in his car with the heat turned on high while we ate. Interesting. And either party can terminate benefits without any drama." We walked into Ben & Jerry’s and I ordered a vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.“It’s not a trap.” he smiled. Don’t call me babe. But I wouldn't mean it. “What?” I asked. There will be no drama. “You are just way more interesting than I could’ve ever predicted.
Chapter Thirteen David was quiet the first week of classes. I was thrilled about getting into the class. Gruff and tough. He had won two Pulitzer Prizes when he covered the conflict in Bosnia during the '90s. Andrew and I were the only two undergraduates who had been given permission to take it this year. I arrived early. But I was also afraid I wouldn’t meet his notoriously high expectations. Neither of these things had happened before. he was rumored to fail students with a single grammatical error in their final assignments. He appeared in a half-zip sweater. so I probably would’ve been worried about a coming apocalypse if I hadn’t been so fixated on how to survive Robert Riley’s graduate-level combat and conflict journalism class. . like everyone else. Still. Riley was a legend. and I sat with Andrew while we waited for Riley to walk in. with a limp from the shrapnel that had been embedded in his leg when he was caught in a roadside bombing early in his career. And I was sending a boy flirtatious texts. And the class was mostly composed of graduate students. I slept fitfully the night before Riley’s class— although that was partly due to the eight cappuccinos I’d had while excising stylistic errors from the newspaper before it went to press.
“What’s up?” He waved at me—he . lanky. And as soon as you forget that reporting is a privilege that should be afforded only to the most committed and well-disciplined individuals. you are going to fuck up.” I closed my dropped jaw and stared at him. Second of all. you make them true. you better have a doctor’s note. no matter how insignificant they may seem. whether or not you’re aware of it. And if you get lazy. people get hurt. in this class. because it was none other than Jack Diamond. because you’re lucky to have a seat in my class. You’re lucky to be studying journalism at all. When you print lies in a newspaper. “Jack! What a nice surprise. welcome. you will end up printing lies. You don’t show up. The door swung open and everyone turned to look at the pour soul foolish enough to show up five minutes late to Riley’s class. I won’t stand for anyone cutting corners. And if you fuck up in journalism. Jack nodded. That is why. you should know that I don’t tolerate lateness or unexcused absences. and impossibly handsome. with a slow Cheshire cat’s smile that seemed to be just for me.He tossed a folded copy of the New York Times onto his desk.” I exchanged glances with Andrew. lean. “First of all. And then my heart jumped into my throat. Riley was hardcore. Professor Riley cleared his throat.
“And it takes more than damned good writing for those moments to be recorded accurately. until I’d almost forgotten they had ever been there. I let his voice drown out the questions I wanted to ask Jack. did you decide to audit?” Riley asked him. It took me a moment to tear my eyes away from him and look instead at Riley.” Riley said paternally. I didn’t notice when Jack slipped out of the class. famous journalist. “So.” Riley was saying. Did he just say that? I waited for Robert Riley—Pulitzer laureate. Bobby. It takes discipline and patience and extraordinarily difficult and dangerous work…” I tried to focus on Professor Robert Riley. . Jack. But that didn’t happen. but he was gone when Riley dismissed us. extraordinarily grumpy professor—to vault over the dais and claw Jack Diamond’s eyes out. “Some of the most crucial moments in history are recorded by combat journalists.” Bobby? Bobby.waved—and then he looked back at Riley. where nobody else was seated. “Still on the fence about that one. Jack climbed to the very back row. “You’re welcome anytime. Jack shrugged and flashed him a smile.
just thank you.” I said.” he said sheepishly.” he said.” he said. “I mean. Xander emailed Justin to apologize on behalf of the fraternity. though.” I laughed. Sorry. “Already?” “It’s a monster. Justin found me after our staff meeting to express his gratitude.” “Yeah. “Thanks. “My brain does not understand. “It means a lot.” “You’ll get it. . I’m good. No need to thank me. Next year should be easier.Chapter Fourteen As Jack had promised. “I mean. “That’s my job.” I said readily.” “I totally understand. “How are things otherwise?” I asked. Hadley. I know I haven’t written that much. “Okay.” We’d reached the end of the path where I turned left towards the parking lot and he turned right towards his dorm. and I turned the issue over to Andrew for the night so I could have my phone interview with USA Today. He rubbed the back of his head. Organic Chemistry is killing me slowly. but other than that.” “Hey. Not a problem.” We left the office together after the meeting. I might have to slow down on the paper.
“Oh. “You said David cooked every Friday?” “Yeah. I couldn’t imagine him putting up with it for much longer.” “Hey. I’ll see you around.” I said. but nothing I could hit out of the park either. “It’ll be fun. He’d been avoiding his other friends when he left the apartment. The interview was okay—a lot of informational questions. They told me they’d be in touch to set up an in-person interview.” I thought the flirtation with Ben would end soon. David had been moody and quiet.” he shouted after me. David came in. I’d like that. “Justin’s coming over for dinner tomorrow. “Definitely. Nothing that threw me off my game. I think he likes you.” “Yeah?” Justin asked hopefully. You should totally come over this week!” “Yeah?” he nodded. which felt like a victory. After I hung up the phone. right. I’m glad you’re coming. “Cool.” “Thanks. Have a good night. I walked out of my room to see him.“Have a good night. um…” he shrugged. David will be happy.” “Awesome. Good luck with the interview. Jus.” “Who?” . and impatiently waiting to hear from Ben most other nights.
“Are you okay?” He shook his head.” I didn’t buy it.” He smiled more genuinely.” I said. I had no idea where he’d even gotten them. “He’s really great. He sounded pretty sad. I can totally wait.” “Yeah? When can I meet him?” I ventured cautiously. No. “Sorry. He was drowning in a baggy polo shirt and khakis. “He’s not ready for that. “Well. as if he were snapping out of a trance. “Justin Shelter?” “Oh. “Maybe we could go out after dinner. Tired. is he your boyfriend?” “No. You can’t. “I’m good. I realized.I raised my eyebrows.” And David wasn’t invited. probably not. Which is fine.” he said. Not until he’s ready and that’s not going to be for a really long time because of football. That couldn’t be right. but it was so not his style. Ben has plans with his teammates. “I told you. It was his clothing.” He looked thinner and tired. Definitely not. . do you have plans Friday? After dinner?” “No.” he shrugged. “Right. He couldn’t have lost weight in a week. I spent the night at Ben’s. “Well.” I nodded my head once.” He looked at me dreamily.
And I think you should introduce Justin to some people. What?” I said incredulously. “I don’t have to be so out there.” “Tone what down?” “You know. in utter shock. yeah.” David said.“You. “Yeah.” He smiled. he sounds really wonderful.” “To people?” “In the gay community.” David said noncommittally. “I know you don’t understand. Ben asked me to sort of tone it down. almost pleadingly. “What whole thing?” “Just the off-the-walls gay thing. “Look. I’d like to meet this kid.” “No.” he said very softly.” “I’m sorry. And he’s been really good to me. the whole thing. “I told Jack I’d think about it.” “Hadley. “By asking you to tone down your personality?” “Not my personality. I really do.” he said. but I really like him.” I said.” I said. “You want to go out?” “Yeah. “He’s a freshman.” he said.” . me and Justin. “Tell me that’s a joke.” “Hadley. you know?” I looked at him. remember?” “Oh. I want to see who's put the crazy idea in your head that your personality is something to be ashamed of.
I was starting to worry he was so angry with me that he wouldn’t show up. I’m going to sleep.” I called after him.” David made himself scarce Friday morning. praying David would be . I reached the apartment.” “Don’t worry about it.” he said. David looked at me. He closed the door softly.My phone rang on the counter. “I’m going to bed.” “I’m not trying to make you feel bad about your relationship. I really hoped he’d be there to let in Justin. I sighed deeply. “David. And he didn’t respond to my text when I asked if we needed anything for dinner while I was on my way home that evening. come on.” he called back. “I’m tired.” David responded coldly. “Are you going to get that?” “This is more important right now.” “That’s what you’re doing. I heard him grab a cup of coffee and leave the apartment around 7. “Hadley. “I don’t see why you’re making me feel bad about a relationship I’m excited about. I’m sorry. I knocked on it. though.” David got to his feet and shrugged.” “David. I want you to leave me alone.
and he and Justin were already drinking. “You are definitely not washed-up yet. It was fun. I changed into tighter jeans and cuter boots. I was having fun. and that wasn’t a bad thing. I even did my makeup. “Right. . too. He wore tight jeans on his pin-thin legs. And he was. “Justin’s culinary skills have improved tremendously. He did an amazing job with the margarita mix. I sipped the lethally strong margarita that Justin had thrust into my hand. and for the first time that I could remember.” David said when I reentered the room. I was excited to go out. Jack wanted to meet up tonight. tossing my head to the music. “Gorgeous. a bright pink shirt. you’re here. slurring his words. “Are you wearing a shirt with those stockings?” I asked with an arched eyebrow as Justin gave me a warm hug and laughed. frankly frightening grin. and a fedora while he poured me a margarita. It was mostly okay. And the sky had not fallen. I’d survived not getting the New York Times job. He was making fajitas.” David said. He handed it to me with a broad. and a black tank top David recommended. I had a friend with benefits.” He sounded like his usual self and he was dressed that way. Justin?” Justin nodded his assent and smiled at David.home.
“Who said I was washed-up?” David raised his hand. “Me. Like all first semester.” “Thanks a lot, pal.” “I mean, you never looked that washed-up. You just sort of dressed that way.” “Oh, shut up,” I said. I ran my hand through my hair. “Jack will be there.” “Fabulous,” David said. He looked at Justin. “Hadley is a committed spinster but she has a friend with benefits, courtesy of me.” I rolled my eyes. David got up from his seat and caught his reflection in the mirror. “Does this outfit look okay?” I finished my margarita. “Of course.” David fussed in front of the mirror. “I feel like Ben wouldn’t like this.” “Who’s Ben?” Justin asked. David opened his mouth and then closed it. “Ben Cho, the fashion designer, my icon.” I raised my eyebrows. “What?” “Hold on. I’m changing.” He came out of his room half an hour later wearing something decidedly un-David. Khakis and a blue polo shirt. He ran a hand through his hair and turned to me. “How do I look?” “Like you’re from Nowhere, Nebraska?”
David flinched slightly and Justin gave me a dirty look. “I like it,” Justin said softly. “Sorry. You look nice. Just—not very you.” “I don’t want him to…I don’t want to scare him off.” “By being yourself?” I asked. David looked at Justin and then at me. “Let’s not talk about this right now.” I met his eyes and inhaled deeply. “Alright. Whatever you say.” I stole a glance at David nervously pushing his hair off his forehead and studying his reflection. “You look good. You always look good,” I said, seeing the apprehension on his face and hating that someone had made him feel so uncomfortable in his own skin. “Oh my god, everything just got so serious,” David said. He laughed. “I swear we’re not usually this emotional, Justin.” He turned up the music. “Who wants another margarita?” Justin and I both accepted another drink. Pretty soon we’d forgotten the weird moment and lost ourselves in the musical genius that was Ke$ha. David started bouncing on his toes and twisting his hips and knees. I joined him. My heart pounded loudly in my ears with the music, and my legs shook from jumping. I collapsed on the floor, hair over my face. “David, I cannot
go anywhere. I need to stay here with the margaritas.” “Oh my god. Time to go to the bar,” he said. “Hadley, get up. You do not get to pass out.” “I’m not passed out. I’m just out of shape.” I sat up and shook out my hair. “Let’s go.” We walked to the bar. When I thought about seeing Jack there, my stomach twisted slightly. In a good way. In the best way. The Pub was the kind of bar that every college town has. Sticky floors, stumbling freshmen, rocking, loud pop music, condescending bartenders who really didn’t like any of their customers, and pretty much everyone you knew from campus. The first person I saw was Andrew Brenner. “Hey,” Andrew said, putting a hand on my back. “Good to finally see you out.” “Yeah. Thanks,” I smiled. “You know, I do go out.” “I know. I know. That’s not what I meant.” He chuckled. “Can you believe the wind chill? The humidity is out of control.” I nodded. “Crazy stuff.” Justin raised his eyebrows and bit back a laugh. “You know each other right?” I said. “Of course. Loved the article,” Andrew said, shaking his hand. “Where’s your roommate?” I looked around, but David had vanished into the
crowd. I saw Nigel in a corner and waved. He might know. “I have no idea,” I told Andrew. “We should find him. We’ll be right back.” David and I walked over to Nigel. “Hads,” he said. He gave me a warm hug. “Justin. Awesome to see you out. How’s it going?” “Good.” Nigel nodded at Trevor. “Justin, this is my friend Trevor. Trev, Justin. Justin’s a freshman in GSA.” “Awesome.” “You guys seen David?” Trevor made a fluttering gesture with one hand. “Prince David is giving us the silent treatment. After all, we aren’t on the football team.” “And wearing something awful,” Nigel said. He looked at me. “What’s with him?” I shook my head. “Long story.” “He’s over there,” Nigel said. He pointed him out to him. “Pretending not to see us.” He was standing alone, looking sort of sad and uncomfortable, holding a beer near a pack of rowdy football players. I saw Ben Mitchell, too, pointedly ignoring him. Bullshit. This was stupid. And it made me furious. “You want a drink?” Trevor asked me. “We’re
drinking and dancing.” I shook my head, watching David, wishing I could shake his shoulder and make him snap out of it. But I knew it wouldn’t work. “What about you, Justin? Drink?” Trevor asked. “Yeah. Definitely! Hadley, do you mind?” “No, no, go ahead,” I motioned at them. “Meet us at the bar if you change your mind,” Nigel called. The three of them disappeared. I kept my eye on David, glancing at my phone occasionally, wondering if he would mind being seen with me, or if it was just his gay friends that Ben had told him to avoid. Ben was still ignoring him. I decided to go get him. At least, he didn’t need to be alone while he was being ignored. I turned and I bumped directly into Jack at full speed. He was holding two beers and stepped back, only barely sloshing them. “Heyo,” Jack said. He smiled. “I was trying to get your attention.” He handed one of them to me and I looked at it, wondering if I should point out that he wasn’t supposed to buy me drinks. “I feel like you’re accident prone,” he said. He was wearing plaid. Navy with red. It looked good on him.
He looked like Jake Gyllenhaal. Too good for a college bar. Too good for a college girl who hadn’t slept with anyone since junior year…of high school. “Sorry, what?” I said, pulling my eyes away from his body, feeling like an idiot frat boy, caught objectifying a hot girl in a Halloween costume. “I said I feel like you might be accident prone. That’s how we met. You falling?” he gave me a grin. “You were in my way.” He laughed. “I guess. My bad.” He smiled. “You like beer? I got one for you, because I’m the kind of person who makes assumptions.” “Thanks.” “So, what’s up?” he asked. I looked up at him and lifted my shoulders. “Not much. I was, um…” I glanced over at where David had been standing. Ben was finally talking to him, although he had his arm wrapped around some blond girl’s waist. “I was about to get my roommate.” “Roommates are awesome. Let’s find him.” “How much have you had to drink tonight?” I asked. He laughed. “I don’t know if I should tell you that. You might put it in your newspaper.” “Trust me. You’re not that interesting and we’re not that desperate yet,” I said. “Yet?” He shook his head. “That’s not a very
strong sell. Well, the answer is not that much. It’s a crowded bar. Somebody pushed me. And you make me nervous.” I smiled at that. “Bullshit.” He tilted the neck of his beer bottle towards me. “I bet you get that all the time.” I shook my head. “No. I never get that.” He laughed. “Well, maybe everyone’s too nervous to say anything.” I tried to think of something witty to say back, but I was watching David downstairs at the bar, with his arms crossed tightly over his stomach. He was alone, nobody was talking to him. It broke my fucking heart. I could see how Ben glanced over, occasionally, and how each time David looked briefly hopeful and how each time Ben averted his eyes. “Seriously?” I muttered bitterly. “Sorry,” Jack said. “Is that not allowed?” “I’m sorry. What were you saying?” I asked him, not taking my eyes off of David. I needed to go down there. “Ah, your week? I asked if you had a good week.” “Yeah, it was fine.” “Everything okay?” “Yeah,” I said. “My roommate is being an idiot.” “You want to go find him?” he said. I nodded. I took a sip of the beer and made a face.
He laughed. “You don’t like beer. Good to know.” “You’re not supposed to buy me drinks.” “You’re right,” he said. “Give it back.” He reached out his hand for it. I smiled, in spite of myself. “It has my germs on it.” “So, what’s up with the roommate?” he said. “It’s a long story.” I looked around for Ben and saw his back retreating towards the door. Bastard. David was still cradling his phone. When it lit up, so did his face. I leaned my arms on the railing to watch. Jack’s voice was quiet in my ear. “That him?” “Yeah.” “You can tell me the story,” he said. “Even if it’s long.” “I told him I wouldn’t,” I sighed. “Well, go talk to him if you need to. I’ll wait here,” Jack said. I nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. Thanks. Sorry.” “No worries,” he said. He looked around. “I’ll guard your railing.” I smiled, wishing I could enjoy Jack instead of worrying about David. I walked back downstairs past the crowd in front of the bar and found him. I tapped him on the shoulder. “Hey.”
” I said.” He looked around. No.” He nodded. it wasn’t. “You let me feel you up. “I wouldn’t recommend trying that. “Got it. “I know I told you I’d introduce Justin to some people but Ben’s—” “Don’t worry about it.” I smiled. “Sorry.” I smiled. “Hadley! Hey. “You okay?” He nodded and beamed. nursing another one at his lips.” He met my eyes. Jack was waiting for me. “Everything cool?” he asked. but I nodded.” “You did. He was the kind of person who didn’t look uncomfortable alone. one beer resting at his elbow. We made out in my car.” He smiled.” .” I nodded once. “So.” “I remember.” He hugged me. He didn’t look back while I watched him leave. I saw you this week.” He nodded. “Yeah.” “I think you called him Bobby.” “Ah. as promised. “Ben just texted me to meet him. “I’ll see you at home. “I meant in Riley’s class. leaning over the railing. So I’m going to go. Then you said I wasn’t allowed to date you.” I said.David whirled. “Have fun. He took up a lot of room. “Do you want me to stay with you? Is Jack here yet…” He bit his lip apologetically.
That’s why you’re Editor-in-Chief. He’s terrifying. okay. that and a long masochistic streak.” “He thinks I want to be a photographer.” Jack said. “How’d that end up happening?” “Oh.” He smiled. He’s amazing. “Tell me more about your masochistic streak. . “Really?” Jack said wickedly.” “Yeah. He laughed into his beer. really.” “How do you know him? “He’s my godfather. “Nah. “I insisted on it as soon as I was born.” he said. He smiled.“I wasn’t going to.” “He’s harmless. Is that like a Fifty Shades—” “Oh. I do.” I said. You like the class?” “Yeah. “But I like to humor him.” “Alright.” “Oh. my dad knew him.” I said. for fuck’s sake.” He grinned.” “Do you?” “No. I meant it’s a lot of work and it’s pretty thankless.” I nodded. apparently. “We go way back. “Gotcha. It makes him feel like he’s doing a good job as a godfather. you know.” Jack said. I grew up reading his books and his articles and—” “Of course. I don’t want to be anything.
His feet kept slipping and he kept grinning each time.” I squinted at the dance floor.” I followed him downstairs past the bar to the dance floor. Every time I did something stupid. But. He grabbed my hips and I’d had just enough to drink to not care who saw. He pulled me close. “You didn’t make a rule against that. “Want to dance?” “Sorry?” “Do you want to dance?” he nodded at the dance floor. I kept spinning the wrong way. And we laughed. and he moved against my hips. Yeah. he started laughing and so did I. I wrapped my arms around his neck. Everyone’s a good dancer when they’re drunk.” “You just haven’t had enough to drink.” he said. And I don’t think there was enough alcohol in the world to make me one. pressing his forehead to mine. .” “Are you a good dancer?” “Amazing. “C’mon. his laughter low and gravelly close to my ear. I was not. chuckling. “I’m not a good dancer. so I held onto his shoulders and moved when he moved and spun when he spun me.“Ah…” He looked back at me. he was a good dancer. gripping my forearms. he didn’t seem to mind.
" said Jack. this is Hadley. “This against the rules?” I shook my head. "Xander.” I said.” I felt small in his arms and I couldn’t remember feeling small before. I could feel every place where we touched. turning . Xander laughed. Nice to meet you. he shook his head." He nodded and grinned." I shook his hand. He got the bartender’s attention. He grinned." Xander nodded and poured four shots skillfully. "Right. Too warm—really—but I didn’t want to let go. He grinned and they shook hands and bumped shoulders. right?" Xander asked. “We need drinks. “This is the only kind of dancing in which I don’t feel like a spaz. I like margaritas. “It’s too hot. "You're the one who seems like a trap.When a slow song came on. "I don't know. "Do you like tequila?" I shrugged.” “Yeah.” He grabbed my wrist and pulled me towards the bar. and warm. “I think so. "Shut up." he said.” “Yeah.” I agreed. "On the house. “Jack!” the bartender said. pushing them towards us.
" A slim. he poured salt along the imprint of his mouth. I did. I winced." she said. right? I think I saw you . that was incredibly inelegant. and licked the salt and downed his. Oh my god. love you. holding out a lime while my eyes streamed. taking them. He reached for my wrist and pressed a damp kiss beneath my pulse point. Without looking up at me. shaking salt along his hand. It stung slightly. where it clung to my skin. tapped his against mine. He handed me a shot glass. "Bite it. "Hey! Are you rushing? How do you know Jack?” "Sorry?" I asked." Jack grinned and licked his hand.to a girl shouting for his attention. I spluttered with the mouthful of salt and alcohol. I looked at Jack. "Oh my god." He laughed. the salt. slipped by us. offering our leftovers. "I'm sorry. "Another?" I shook my head. "I don't think so. biting down on a lime last." I said. "Blergh. turning away from him as the juice dripped down my stinging hands. "Shots?" Jack asked her. She grinned at me. "I don't know about this. gorgeous redheaded girl who I knew was the president of Kappa-something. "Are you rushing? You are." he said.
"I'm Hadley. He wrapped his arm around me.” he said. “It’s too fucking hot in here. I looked at him." "Oh. We mix with Jack's frat all the time. I started to laugh. His hair was damp with sweat. "Oh my god! Sorry. And every time he spun me. no. his rumpled plaid shirt. when we were both breathlessly and giggling. I pulled my hair into a high ponytail. The alcohol and the heat got to me quickly. but it was a good look on Jack. pulling at his thick flannel shirt." "No worries. It made him look strangely alive.” He pulled me through the crowd and out the door . I'm the president of Kappa Delta. “Want to get back out there?” he nodded at the dance floor. too." "Nice to meet you. Mine was. I'm sorry. Jack got cuter and cuter. The air against my neck felt delightful. We danced and danced. "You want to get out of here?" he asked. His sweat-soaked hair.” I said. “Sure. “Yeah. Reese. My legs ached." I said.” I smiled." he said." I said. “I’m actually a senior." "Reese.at our event today. And I said exactly what I wanted to say. "See you around. Jack laughed again. I'm totally mortified. Let me know if you have any questions at all.” She frowned.
. “Your turn.” I grimaced. “You should try it.. “Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper?" I shrugged.” he said. It has some advantages.flopping around aimlessly. For five fleeting seconds.” “Not really. in between two banks of snow. I flop. “I like it. “Please. But we quickly started to shiver and I pulled on my down coat and he slid on a Patagonia fleece and stuffed his hands in his pockets. It’s not nearly as dreadful as you just made it sound.into the winter night. we both stood in the chilled air without our coats. “I bet you’re an overachiever.” I said.” . Hadley Arrington?” “No deal.” “What’s your deal?” “I’m an underachiever.” I said. Everyone has a deal.” Jack said.” “Because you’re a masochist?” “Because—because I feel like I’m actually creating something instead of just. “So.” he said holding out his arms and walking up the sidewalk. what’s your deal. “This feels so good. He smiled. He glanced at me.” “See.
“Like what?” “Well. what do you want to do?” He closed the door and put his hands lightly on my waist. what to say. And we walked through the unlocked front door to the sounds of video games and the smell of pot. “You okay?” I rolled my eyes. Flopping is easy.” The frat house wasn’t far—four hundred or so yards down the road. "Fine. lined on shelves. He leaned forward and kissed me again. He had countless books. where to sit. His hands had rested there all night. and disentangled myself from his grip. how do you know Reese?" He grinned. but he closed it before I got there. but the dancing had been more about fun than about sex. Now the light hands made my heart beat quickly in anticipation. took a breath. "I'm . So. “So. I walked over to glance at it. "Jack. pushing me back onto the bed. or how to say it. "The most clueless girl on campus? How could I not know her?" He raised his eyebrows.” His room was upstairs. I crinkled my noise and he laughed. It was small and cozy and absurdly clean." He stopped kissing me and frowned. “Come on. I didn’t know what to do with myself.. you’re never disappointed in yourself. And an open sketchbook on his desk. down the hallway and in a corner. I looked at him and tried to sound cool..
like he’d been in the sun. Very weird. you're not a good dancer." "I went to rush. I watched him pointedly." "I don't get flowers and you don't get to lie to me. I was trying to cut through the student center to get to the library." "Yes.guessing you never went in for the sorority thing. unabashed.” He pointed a finger at me." "Completely devastated. "Don't be so hard on yourself. diagonally . He grinned. Hadley Arrington." he said." He got up from the bed and took off his shoes." He smiled." I said. went right through some kind of cheer. I thought so." "Ha." I said. "Seriously?" I nodded. "Okay." "I'm not a good dancer either. A thin white scar ran from his left rib to his right groin." He grinned. “You're an overachiever. "Yeah. He started unbuttoning his shirt. Lots of clapping. his eyes crinkled. "So. "I'm devastated. "You're not a bad dancer. despite the fact it was January in Illinois. His wide shoulders were smooth and brown. and he tossed the sweat-soaked shirt on top of his dresser. There are almost no serious journalists who can't dance." I said. "I bet." I said.
“How’d you get that?” “Slip and slide.” he said.” “Bullshit. He smiled." "I'm not going anywhere. “Yeah. “There was a sharp rock underneath the slide. I met his eyes. “Relax.” "So. imagining. I got to my feet and took off my coat and draped it over the back of his desk chair.” he said. trying to sound calm. He spun me around so I was facing him and walked me back to the . I didn't even believe I wasn't going anywhere. I have a question.” I winced. feeling panicked. Of course. Why?" "You seem ready to bolt. “Don’t try that one.” Jack murmured. A smile played at the corners of his mouth when he kissed me.” he whispered. I sounded kind of like a coke addict. “I am relaxed. He pressed his lips against my neck. "Am I freaking you out?" "No.” he said. I cocked my head and he stepped towards me. "Shoot. And I had to go down first. though." I said. eyes sparkling.” “I’ll keep that in mind." I said.splitting his rippling muscles.
so I was lying underneath him.bed.” he said.” "But I'm an overachiever.” he smiled. He moved his mouth from my ear to my mouth and kissed me. I nodded. I could be rusty?” “Shut up. And he kissed me again. “Not with me anyways. My heart started racing.” he whispered gently. pulling my head aside and sitting up. I sat when we reached its edge. He then leaned forward. “Okay?” he put his hand on my lower back. but he braced his weight on his own hands. My fingers tangled in his soft. I thought he was going to kiss me.” I closed my eyes. He kissed me again and I smiled." “You don’t get to be nervous. breaking the kiss. like it was going to explode. . and kissed him. still-damp hair. lifting one hand up to his strong jawbone. but he dropped his head next to my ear and whispered. I’m nervous. He lifted me up and slid me further back on the bed. I could feel his heat. He sat back on his heels.” He laughed softly in my ear. “Maybe I'm nervous. “We don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. pressing me back onto my elbows. “Well.” “Says Jack as he pins me down. The breath was warm against my neck. I broke the kiss abruptly." “You’re not going to underachieve in bed.
I felt him beneath me.” “What do you want?” “This.” I replied.” I managed. He pulled me closer. His teeth scraped ever so softly against the hairs on my arm. Not tonight. And I wanted to say something before we got ahead of ourselves.” “So.” He nodded. he dropped kisses along my collarbone. “That’s what I brush my teeth with.” he said. we’re just going to have a long make-out . He unhooked my bra gently with one hand and bit one strap and pulled it down my arm. “Sorry. I ran my hands through his hair. They were warm. Just. “Good. I looked at him. I mean. He reached for the hem of my shirt and pulled it over my head. I shivered as he thrust up slightly and dropped his mouth gently to my breast. His cool fingers ran up my ribcage. “You taste like beer and tequila. lifting me with him and knelt onto the bed and dropped me onto my back. He stood up. Just not so fast.” I nodded. “I never took that for granted. Not sex.“Too fast?” “Yeah. He smiled. lifting his mouth. I straddled him and put my hands on his shoulders. I want to. “You taste like vanilla.” He smiled and coaxed me onto his lap.
we can read some newspapers. actually. I wasn’t nearly as nervous. and after rolling around in his bed shirtless. reached for my shirt. He smiled.” “And you can be in charge of achievement?” “I’ll be in charge of rules. “Absolutely. “Not a date.” . “Benefit of the friendship?” He nodded. What do you do for fun?” “The newspaper. “Well.” he said when I gave him a look.session?” “A shirtless make-out session.” We made out until our lips ached.” he teased. breathing in the cold air. It could be stressful. we lay silently against each other. and said I had to go. but it was voluntary. He was easy to be near. “I think the kids call it second base.” I nodded. “Like some kind of friend thing. He sat on the stoop and waited with me for the cab.” “Maybe you should be in charge of fun. when the cab came. both of us shivering. “We should do something fun.” I smiled. when he wasn’t making me nervous. I leaned back on my hands.” “That’s fun?” “Yeah. I liked it. And when we had stopped.” Jack said.” I meant it too. I felt sleepy and I laughed. “It is.
“I’ll see you around. . He watched me leave. pal. Hadley.” “Later. There was something about that that I liked.He chuckled and walked me down the path towards the car.” I heard him laugh as I got into the car. And something else about that scared me a little.
” He laughed dubiously and nodded.” “Sorry.” “Hey. my hangover was starting to get the better of me. Confused the hell out of me. “You’re awfully judgmental this morning. “This is why I don’t go out. “Right. “Socializing melts my brain. “Rough night?” “Oh.Chapter Fifteen By one o’clock. I let out a sigh of relief. first paragraph. at least I showered this morning. I did. He handed me one.” I . “Tired. not really. When the door to the offices swung open and Andrew appeared.” He looked over my sweatpants and the empty Pedialyte bottles on my desk.” he said. I guess.” “I think that’s probably just the alcohol. Finally.” He yawned. “Shit. and I kept missing split infinitives and all the other nasty grammar mistakes that riddled freshmen’s articles. Brenner. He held two large Starbucks cups.” He tapped the screen.” I said. Did you find David last night?” “Yeah. “Verb agreement. “I love you almost as much as I love coffee.” I informed him." He leaned over my shoulder to look at the article I was reviewing. He was wearing a polo shirt. I couldn’t remember comma rules. I should not be copyediting right now.
Greek life.” “That needs six pages? We gave Obama’s reelection six paragraphs. we could do an article on LGBT life.” I said.” I gave him a look. “Oh. and Juliet had this idea to do like a Secret Admirers section for a week. “So.” “You should consider it. I was talking to Juliet. “It’s not a bad idea.” “Your newspaper?” he repeated. I’m the first girl to be Editor-in-Chief in nine years.” he said. “Like what? I’m not putting Valentine’s day on the cover.said. It would be great for readership. I’m just not giving it six pages in my newspaper. I’m not presiding over the first Valentine’s Day Special. don’t be such a Grinch. and she thinks we should do something big for Valentine’s Day. You could write an editorial on why you’re opposed to Valentine’s Day. I fixed the mistake and reached for my coffee. “You know what I mean.” “I’m not opposed to Valentine’s Day.” “What about a special edition? Like a six-page. “Like.” he said seriously. “I think it’s sort of unfair that you’re shooting it down .” “And where would we put the Secret Admirers? Before the sports section or after the international section?” I demanded sarcastically. “Would you just think about it?” Andrew said. Love at Northwestern thing.
If I were the Editor-in-Chief. I just don’t have the energy right now. and love lives are a big part of culture. “Let’s talk about it tomorrow. Seriously.because you don’t want people to think you’re too girly.” I sighed. “But think about it. albeit frostily. Look. We could get people to write about their love lives. It could be a mix of opinion pieces and news stories.” .” he said. “Okay. I’d do it.” I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. think about it. we always talk about culture at Northwestern.” He smiled. “Can we just focus on this issue and worry about Valentine’s Day closer to Valentine’s Day?” “Fine.
I haven't seen you for a week." I rolled my eyes." I admitted. "I've been here. "Yes.” . So." "When have you been here?" "I was here Tuesday night." I pulled a plate down from the cabinet over the sink and handed it to him. grudgingly. I missed you. "Waffle?" I nodded. "I bet you were here for five minutes. It was wedged in a corner. I guess things are going well with Ben?" He beamed." He smiled as he poured batter into a waffle iron. "Well." I said. "And you'd be too busy to notice otherwise. and I couldn't get the bedspread flat unless I yanked the frame all the way out. I hated making my bed." he said.” David declared when I got back from the newspaper around 11 on a Saturday morning. "Please. You missed dinner on a Friday. "I was about to report you missing. "I don't have time for your love.Chapter Sixteen “I’m in love. He smiled. Plate. “So tell me." When my schedule felt crazed." "Still. I stopped sleeping underneath the covers so I didn’t have to make my bed in the morning. "I know when you stop making your bed." I said.
I feel like you shouldn’t have to dress differently for the guy you’re dating.” he said. "Actually. “If some guy wanted you to change. "I'm kidding. you’re straight and everyone you date is straight. "He really thinks people are so homophobic that he can't be seen with you?" “He wants to go pro.” I said. It’s good though. spare me the details.” I pointed out.” I muttered. “David. I really like him. “Because. that doesn't make any sense. Hadley.He sighed and fluttered his eyelashes dramatically." “He’s on the football team.” “The season is over and he’s a senior. you’d hit the fucking roof. “But who really cares?” “You should.” “Yeah. “You don’t get it.” “How?” I asked. that’s different.” “From people finding out who he is? Who you are?” I shook my head. I took a bite of the waffle. if I ever started doing that. “I just feel like…I don’t know. I mean.” David’s mouth hardened .” he said." I dumped syrup on my waffles." “Are you going to need more polo shirts?” “Maybe.” “Sorry." David laughed. He shrugged sadly. "He's dreamy. it would be controlling bullshit. Ben has to protect himself.
I want to date Ben. but. I'd drowned them in syrup and they were sticky and oversweet. “Look.into a thin line." I took another bite of the waffles. And I’m willing to deal with it. “You’re like the most lovable person—” “I like Ben. there are a lot of guys out there who wouldn’t ask you to change—” “How would you know?” David asked angrily. You’re right. "Or is that not alright with you?" David demanded. just to clear the air between us. then alright. I shouldn't be judgmental. And I don’t need you to judge me for it. I know that’s not what you want to hear and I know it’s your life and your decision. “David. I’m sorry.” I said. But. But you didn't look comfortable last weekend when he was ignoring you. He doesn’t want people to know. That's not what I was trying to do. It just makes me nervous. I’m going to do it. It’s not about changing me. "If you're comfortable. I don't think it's healthy. alright?” I stared at him. "Sorry. "The waffles are good." I shook my head. Sorry. I took a deep breath. you don’t understand it because you’re not gay. I’m sorry.” “Alright. It’s about being scared.” I said softly. "I don't know. And if this is what I have to do. ." I said. He’s scared. I went to the refrigerator and poured a glass of milk and took a sip.
"Yeah? Well." I said. "That's great. he said he'd help cook. I had a text message from Jack: What are you up to today? I looked up at David." “Yeah. My phone vibrated. "I was going to cook. Come over? Sure. I'll stay out of your hair. something had exchanged between us that made sitting quietly in the same room uncomfortable. ." Free at 5." He looked worried. Um. I've got things to do. sure. I have a favor to ask.” Even though I'd apologized and even though David seemed to be okay. maybe a little bit before. do you think you can find something to do? Somewhere else?” “Sure. if you'll tell me when's good for you.. "Actually. "What time is Ben coming over?" "Well." I said.” “Yeah. So." “I asked Ben over for dinner tonight and he won't be comfortable if you're here. in a falsely high voice. then. “Thanks. Seriously. maybe I'll tell him five-thirty?” I nodded. Thank you." He broke into a smile.. "Cool. um.“Thanks." "Anytime is fine." He bit his lip. no worries.
Xander. Hadley.” “Fuck you. in yet another plaid flannel shirt and arching his neck at the television screen while he played Halo with the dark-haired bartender from the week before. “Why did you pause the game.” Jack said when I walked in." "You. "Hadley.” he said. “Yo." I said.” Jack said. "You can't pause. He was lying in the atrociously messy living room on his back." Xander looked at me and grinned. He kept .“Boom. Xander glanced up from the violent game for a split second.” “You’re calling me Arrington?” “What? I like that name. “Hey." "I remember. Xander. but you were drunk." “She’s the Editor-in-Chief. jerking his controller around. you asshole?” “You didn’t say it was a girl. “You’re the Editor-in-Chief?” “That’s what I just said. too.” Jack said. You met at the bar. what the fuck are you doing?” Jack asked Xander. Good to see you again. this is Arrington. Xander.” Xander jerked his head up and paused the game. “Hey. “Unpause.” Xander laughed and nodded at me.
“It would have been a lot easier to get all of that Justin Shelter stuff off the internet if you had just explained you were trying to impress a hot girl…” I bit my lip.looking. maybe I will. With the exception of a carton of orange juice. I grabbed a bottle of vodka and fished around in their dishwasher for a clean glass.” Jack insisted.” “Well. “Fuck off. “Make yourself a drink and join us. "Kitchen's that way.” Jack said. “I’m not trying to impress her. It was derogatory and objectifying and it insulted my intellect and my position at the paper. Xander's voice carried into the kitchen and I cocked my head to hear. all they had was alcohol and energy drinks.” Xander said. I shouldn't like that. It was an outrage. I walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator." Jack nodded at it with his chin. I'd never been the hot girl.” “Shut the fuck up. “It all makes sense now. . The tile floor in the kitchen was sticky. and finish the game.” Jack replied. if you’re not trying to impress her. But I liked it. I wasn't the hot girl. “I'd like to see that. “What makes sense?” I asked.” Jack replied.
" "No. everything really makes sense now. “Well. I walked back into the living room and sat down next to where Jack was lying on the floor. "Knock yourself out. not exactly." I said. I poured a splash of vodka over ice. ignoring him. “You play Halo?” I nodded gamely."Yeah. I leaned against the couch and held out my hand for a controller.” he repeated. No. “Um. policy journalism?" "Yeah. Tell me how it goes." Xander's voice dropped. would you stop talking?" Jack asked." Jack said. I . I bet you would. Xander chuckled. Not exactly. "Washington bureau. "Hot girl plays Halo." “Awesome." “Xander. "So. "It's a good job. I had no idea how to play Halo. "I have an interview with USA Today on Thursday. really. I couldn't make anything out after that. “Know what you’re doing next year?” Xander asked." He nodded." I shrugged. "Whole thing makes sense. and filled the glass with orange juice.” Xander said." "Is that the dream job?" I shrugged. but no.
"Anyways. They want people with experience. "Well." "Why is that good?" I asked. “I don't think it's worth dying for bad news. “Yep. “What are you doing next year?” I asked Jack." I said to fill the silence. But that's not what the interview is for. "Anyways." “Well. Newspapers. I doubt that'll happen before I've been out of school for a while. He let out a long breath and didn’t finish the thought. his voice almost harsh." I said." I said.” he said tonelessly. yeah. He tore his eyes from the screen and gave me a quick searching glance. I rubbed my chin." Xander watched Jack closely. Neither of them said anything. Maybe even worth dying for. “Yeah. "Combat journalism?" Jack repeated." “You do?” Jack asked. so I don’t foresee . yeah.want to do combat journalism. "I think it's important. “Which I’m actually pretty good at. You need war correspondents to enforce accountability. "Um.” I shook my head. If journalists hadn’t gone over to Vietnam. a lot more people would've died there. I guess that’s important. if that’s…” he started. that's good. "I’m going to try to find a way not to work.” Jack said. He shrugged. Eventually. I think.
" “Eventually.” he scooped his backpack from the floor and nodded at me.” Jack said simply.” I said to Xander.” “Nice. We both heard the door close behind him and then we were on our own. the way my sleeves rustled when I brushed a stray piece of hair behind my ear. Hadley. you are going to have to do something with your life. I could hear the fullness of the room’s silence: the way the floorboards creaked when Jack moved.” “You." Xander repeated. I have things to do.” Xander said sarcastically.any problems.” Xander threw his head back.” Xander said. It was strangely electrifying to be alone in a room with him. "We'll see.” "Good plan." “You have to do something. “Sup?” . “Nice to meet you. my friend. Jack shrugged. but I took Intro to Philosophy and got a B+. “Enough. “I think it’s a great plan. “Don’t argue with me about the meaning of life. "They always tell you to do what you love. I watched him go. And I love not working. You may be a genius engineer. “And I don’t see the point in getting a job. again.” Jack said. Jack finally sat up and looked at me. like he’d had this same conversation with Jack a dozen times. too.
" he said. "You look horrified." He cocked his head and took another sip." "Ah. He added a few ice cubes to my glass and took a second one out of the dishwasher for himself." I raised an eyebrow and he laughed. "Yes.“Sup yourself?” He smiled and reached for my drink." he said. He took a sip. “So. He pulled me to my feet by the wrist and nodded at the kitchen. how’s the newspaper?” he asked. “There's talk of a Valentine's Day issue. they all have names like Heart Attack in a Can and Lethal Dose of Caffeine." I said. “Let’s go upstairs. "What about snacks?" I threw him a look and he laughed." . we do.” I said. I finished the rest of the drink in a long gulp. "That's why I'm not taking snacks from you. you're never available for dinner.” “I barely even know you. "I don't know how well you'd do in combat if Valentine's Day makes you nauseous. “Who has a screwdriver for dinner?” “You didn’t have any other mixers. “You want to eat?” "That's like rule number one." Jack said in mock horror. refilling my drink and making it twice as strong." "Well.
"Yep. "Al Capone versus Bugsy Malone. "Well. It’s named after a guy who married a bunch of people or something. I think he was a Saint. He grinned and kissed me. actually." "I know about the massacre. that's fantastic. He took a sip and swallowed. like a half-toast. Thank you for that. I'm embarrassed how much I know about this. lifting his glass and tipping it towards me. "I just don't see the point." “No problem. Probably not your kind of thing. maybe. I was trying to kiss you and it got a little weird." "Really?" I nodded. sharply." I said. I’m starving. Also it’s a movie with Ashton Kutcher.I raised my eyebrows. And then he nipped at my neck. I'm talking about Ashton Kutcher and you're talking about Al Capone." “It’s this holiday where couples give each other candy and presents and flowers and go to dinner. “Did you just bite me?” “I don’t know. I sipped my orange juice." "What massacre?" "There was a massacre in Chicago in 1929. “The colors are pink and red. "Some gangster thing. also white." He chuckled.” I said.” he said.” He nodded. but you don’t have time . Saint Valentine. Five members of the North Side gang shot and killed.
wartime reporting is really going to knock your socks off.” He said all of this without batting an eyelash. Actual years. “I just like to know where things are. “Well. He reached for my wrists and pulled me to him and kissed me hard.” “No. And warfare’s super-organic or something?” “Or something. He took it from my hands and took a sip himself. his rich brown eyes glimmering. this is unnatural. He took another sip." He didn't laugh.” He chuckled." He shook his head.” I said.” “So do I but this…” He smirked at me." He set my half-full glass down on the desk next to his. I walked toward him.” I said. which I was expecting. He sat at the edge of the bed watching me warily. if you’re that disturbed by it. He shrugged." "I do. you don't. "I don't want you to be drunk.to have dinner with me. "No. "I need that. I decided to sleep with you and it's been years. . “You’re disturbingly organized. I laughed all the way up to his room. I took a long sip of my orange juice and vodka. “Okay.
I shivered. He pulled the shirt over my head in one firm tug that made my hair static. my skin prickling wherever he touched me.” He smiled and he leaned forward and he kissed me. “What?” He smiled. and he had the softest. . You are. He smiled at me. most talented lips in the world.” I did. I pulled his shirt over his head and ran my hands over his wide shoulders. I worried that something was wrong. “Why are you wearing so many clothes?” he whispered. “No. I shivered. I wanted him to do something. tugging at them easily until they came off. He slipped off my jeans. I closed my eyes as he rolled over me. “Shut up.He fell back and took me with him. He stroked my ribs slowly and smoothly. He smelled like fresh air and marijuana.” he said throatily. I shivered in the cool air in his room and he didn’t move. I could taste the vodka and orange juice on his mouth. but he just stared at me. “Take off your bra. really. undoing the button on my jeans. and dug his fingertips firmly into my hips. For a brief moment. I kissed him and he thumbed my breast. “You’re beautiful. He sat back on his heels and looked at me.” I whispered. His hands felt warm and cold at once.
“Christ. He lifted me up. I nodded. He kissed me hard.“I want to fuck you. holding most of his weight on his legs and forearms. I didn’t know what he was saying ‘Jesus’ to. but his hands were gentle as they pressed down on my ribs. too. He hooked his fingers into my black underwear . Hadley. which was just long enough for me to run my fingers through. so that I was lying on my back beneath him. He reached for my waist and pulled me closer.” he whispered. The way he said it sounded dirty and sweet at the same time. He slid on top of me. holding me against him. with my head near the foot of his bed and my legs still clasped around his waist. I bit his lip softly. He kissed me until I was breathless and aching.” he said fiercely.” he murmured. His callused fingers slid up and down my spine lightly and I shivered and arched my back. down my legs to the tips of my toes. He sat against the headboard. tangling my fingers in his soft hair. and pushed me back slightly. I wanted him to fuck me. I felt the warmth of his body. His boxers rustled slightly as I pressed against him. grinding his hips slightly against mine and I felt a spasm of desire shooting through me. but I was there too. Out of breath and wild with the sensation of being so close to him. “Jesus.
I’m sure. It’ll be fun.” he said.” he said. I want to fuck you. I curled my toes so hard they cracked and his low laugh moved through his body. He chuckled low and easy and I closed my eyes and felt a jolt as he slipped two fingers in between my legs. “Yeah.” I said. “Then. and he moved down my body. on the sharp edge of my hipbone. He grabbed my chin and kissed me. relax.” he said again. I was nervous. “Relax. moving back up my body to kiss my neck. “Jesus. meeting my eyes and seeing more hesitation than I was going to admit to. But. I wanted to have sex with him. He kissed my mouth and my neck.and I let out a soft sound. “You okay?” he asked.” My throat tensed. I could feel the vibrations of his laughter. I sat up and ran a hand through my hair. . I grabbed a handful of his hair. My body froze with anticipation and anxiety. I flushed when he slid them down to my knees. When he reached the soft skin of my inner thigh.” He laughed and with his lips still resting against mine.” “Yeah?” he asked. “You sure?” “Yes. He pressed me back to the bed. “Yes. It had been a while. I’ll go slow. only half-joking. “You should do that. God. dropping kisses on my breasts and my stomach.
” “We’ll see about that.” “I’m awfully bossy?” he said. He hesitated when I closed my eyes. He raised an eyebrow. like I said.“I’m…” he curled his fingers and I swore.” he said. look at me. “Yes. “I’m going to love watching you lose control. and kissed me again. touching his face. “You’re awfully bossy.” “Well. Whatever word I was trying to say came out much closer to a moan. He slipped his fingers out of me in one smooth motion and reached for a condom. only the shudder that ran up my spine and down my toes was warm and white and somehow soft.” I murmured. “This is good? You’re sure?” he asked. He moved over me and ran one hand up my leg. “How many times are you going to make me say yes?” He grinned and nipped at my neck. He smiled.” He cocked his head. slipped on the condom. sweetheart.” “You seem to be enjoying it.” he teased. “You’re a bastard. He had hit something that went through my body like a shudder. “Hey. “Until you’re screaming it. I really don’t know what I’m . I opened my eyes.
doing. “Christ. I kept my eyes open. I took a sharp breath. I closed my eyes and gripped his shoulders. okay? If you want me to stop. “Fuck.” It took a second for the pain to dissipate and then he moved in me.” I muttered.” I smiled. and he leaned down and kissed me. the warm wave of a building orgasm. This time. But even though I knew that. . just a slight rock backwards. I watched the quiet intent in his eyes. “Relax. I could only register his presence above me and the sea of pleasure as he moved in me. as he moved carefully and surely into me. his tongue gentle on my lips. I was barely hanging onto my own reactions. tentatively at first. the soft bed beneath me. briefly startled by the sensation. I felt only him and I felt on the absolute edge of control. and took a breath. Just breathe deeply a few times. I could tell he was being gentle. his eyelashes fluttering against mind. responding to my hesitance. I could tell he was holding back.” “I don’t want you to stop. I acknowledged briefly that my mind had gone absolutely blank. I tightened my legs around him. you’re tight. I tensed reflexively. I’ll stop. like the single thing that existed in the world in that moment was Jack Diamond’s body above me.” he whispered shakily.
“That was good. and I turned against him. He pulled out gently.” I felt like my spine had melted into a puddle. and controlling every movement so nothing hurt. breathing hard. so my head was buried underneath his chin. I decided not to say them.” I managed to say as he wrapped an arm securely around my waist. lazy Saturday evening when Jack Diamond made me feel like nobody had ever made me feel before. I dug my teeth into his shoulder to keep from crying out and Jack had taken over. got rid of the condom and came back to bed. “You’re good at that. girl. smiling seriously. I might have said something to that effect because he laughed.” I dropped my head against his shoulder knowing that I would remember this better than my first time—the dark. “Jesus Christ.” he whispered roughly when he finally came. Hadley. a single coherent thought registered: he was right about Luke doing it wrong. “I got nothing on you. . But oh my god. He pulled my boneless body back towards him. “Jesus. holding my hip. lasting kiss to my shoulder. thinking of the other things I wanted to say like oh my god. I closed my eyes.” He pressed a hard.Through the perfect haze.
He glanced at the window dubiously. And I’m warm.” I said. I could see the thick flakes dropping from the sky and covering the world again. I should really get home. He nodded out the window.” “I live two minutes away." I smiled.” “I wake up early and I kick. When I woke up. days and days of snow. He walked to me and straddled me over the covers. he was sitting at his desk. with his feet kicked up on the desktop. trying to press me back to the bed. “What time is it?” “Almost midnight." "I don't care. reading Absalom. “It’s snowing again. trying to pretend he wasn’t watching me while I got . letting the book fall from his hand.” I got up and ran a hand through my hair. He got to his feet. I pushed him back. half-dressed. He looked at me. and got out of bed.” he said. You just passed out.” I said.” I countered. “I swear I didn’t drug you. Absalom by William Faulkner in the low light. pushed him aside. “Hours ago. “You were drinking. You should stay. “It’s cold.” he said.” “No. All winter it would be like this. “It’s blizzarding. holding the worn paperback in one hand.I somehow fell asleep.
“Sorry about the whole nap thing…” “Nah. you probably fall asleep whenever you lie down. He nodded. “See ya around.” “Pretty much. “You work so hard. He smiled softly. . Something with someone as cute as Jack could be.dressed. Something fun.” I said. This was exactly what I needed.” he said. Something without any expectations.” “See you around. Hads. it’s cool.” I laughed softly on the stair landing.
It was amazing anyone ever got anything done in heels. wornout and in the world's least comfortable shoes." he said. "Where to." I admitted. and sneaking into the frat house after midnight to see Jack whenever I could. my lady?" he asked. But he didn’t respond." he said. kind of.Chapter Seventeen I whirled through the next two weeks. and was dumb enough to not check the shuttle bus schedule when I landed back in Chicago late the same night. which wasn't enough. David never ignored me. I flew to D. And sent him half a dozen texts. eating on the run. "The newspaper office. I sat down in the plastic chairs near baggage claim. "At the airport. I chose Jack. And I knew that meant he wasn’t near his phone. I had two people to choose from: Andrew and Jack.C. He hadn't been lying. for the interview with USA Today . if you don't mind. "I'm going to break the land speed record on my way there just so I can gloat." "Are you asking me for a favor?" "Completely. . I called David from the terminal. I'd only been waiting fifteen minutes when he parked his Jeep out front. I was hoping to take you with me." I said. "I'm stranded." "I do.
he gave me a rueful look. catching the ball. I'm going to send you a bill for the car ride. did you think about the Valentine's Day issue?" he asked." he said. “So. "Thank you. “Actually. "Yes.” I confessed. "You want company?" I smiled. That's what friends are for." “I might have to stop sleeping with you so we can stay friends. I'm a really shitty friend. maybe you should just keep sleeping with me. So much. Hey.I smiled and rubbed my chin. no. "There's a nor'easter over Ohio." I raised my eyebrows." Andrew was throwing a baseball against the wall in my office." "No delays?" he asked. "My pleasure." he said.” "Amazing. "Hads. "Yeah. but I won't get anything done. “Ah." "You can't ever take a night off?" "I can. so. "How was your flight?" "Fine. Right?" The columnists all nodded. we've been lost without you. . Just not tonight." I said." When we reached the newspaper office. talking through the opinion pages with a few of our columnists. I've got to go though.” he replied. No delays." "Alright. "Everyone likes the idea.
when?" Andrew asked. "You don't think this wouldn't be better for the magazine?" "Did you read my email?" he asked. How about—” "Tuesday." "I can take your shift. "It's a good concept." "I don't know. "Come on. I exhaled. like access to birth control. I sat down on the edge of my desk and tried to give it some serious thought. "Well. The holiday provides relevancy to tackle bigger issues. offered with a smile. A special edition?" I asked. I haven't really thought about it. I don't think you can just say no." Andrew said." I said. Well." Shuchi. one of our cheery sophomore columnists." I tried to smile . okay then. "We did a whole section-by-section breakdown." "No. rates of sexual assault. "How about dinner Tuesday?" "I'm on the schedule to copyedit Tuesday." "I hear you. "Well. I have to look at that. "Oh." I said." he said. Juliet wants to give editing a try. I'm just not deciding now. It's packaging for an article on sex and romance. let's just talk about it. which are more than just buzzwords. rubbing the back of my neck. It's a good idea. all the stuff nobody talks about because it's never newsworthy."Ah. Okay?" "Well." "I'm not saying no.
I’m just a little overwhelmed. "It'll be good. Valentine's Day. "Thanks. "Thanks. I stayed there until midnight and then went to the library to finish up an Arabic essay. "We'll talk Tuesday." "All good. "I was there for like five minutes." Andrew said." He clapped his hands.?" "Fine. I fell asleep curled up in a library chair and only made it home as the sun began to rise. Yeah.gamely at Andrew." I said. Sorry to be so short. how was D. “Thanks." I nodded. guys. I'll let you do your work. "Well. "So.” "Perfect." Andrew nodded slowly. Shuchi. anywhere is fine." I smiled.C. I had one of those days where time moves fast and slow at the same time—where you're so tired nothing really makes that much sense." "Alright." I said. Great meeting." "Yeah. Thanks." "Yeah. "You're killing me." He laughed and whistled his way out of the office." "I'll make a reservation somewhere." he smiled. They gather their notebooks and left. ." Andrew said. "We can go to Chipotle or something.
I knew I shouldn't judge. I chewed my lip. And David believed it was all necessary. So. Cheryl. Jack was busy. . then Ben could stop sleeping with girls. Sorry.I was glad when it was over. Ben could give just a little. Ben who had to keep his sexual orientation hidden. He used to respond to my texts instantaneously. have plans with Ben. I was worried about David. I went into my room to write a thank you note to my interviewer. turned on reality TV . Or maybe I just felt a little neglected. Ben who still hooked up with girls to keep up appearances. David finally got back to me. But he didn’t write back to my text about dinner. Maybe I was being selfish. He could stop with the girls. at least. After I’d written my thank you not. Ben who couldn’t afford to have anyone know. but he'd only gotten back to me about needing a ride from the airport the day after. I texted David to see if he'd be coming back for dinner. He was head-over-heels in love with Ben. too. With apologies and emojis and something about being busy with Ben. He hadn't cooked on Fridays in a few weeks. but I found it hard not to. I ordered Chinese takeout. If he was making David tone down his whole personality in public. at a rush event for his fraternity.
I fell asleep on the couch. I just wanted to touch base with you and see if there were any other positions at the Times that might be opening up in the near future. But I was desperate.and felt sorry for myself. Hadley I sent it before I could talk myself out of it. I reached for my laptop and impulsively fired off an email to Suzanne at the Times. in the way you fall asleep when you're exhausted. But. I had spent almost every Friday night in college like this—alone and exhausted—I shouldn't give up just because I'd heard someone had said “no” once. like dropping heavily into a dreamless cocoon of darkness. The interview had gone well. and sighed. I knew what I wanted to do. They wanted a recent graduate with editorial experience. My best. too. Dear Suzanne. it was desperate. I put a stamp on my thank you note. I couldn't get excited about it like I had about the Times job. I hope to hear from you soon. . Yes. thickly.
take your time. but I was still holding out hope that I might get a job that I really wanted.Chapter Eighteen Cheryl offered me the job while I walked back to the apartment on Saturday night. It was an option and a good one. "David!" I shouted. "Sure. and flicked them off. I walked into his room frowning. I didn’t want to barge into anything in . fumbling with the keys. and pushed into our apartment. it was her. I hesitated. It was eight o'clock and I was sure the unknown number belonged to a telemarketer. when I came home. I sighed. And then I heard a sound. he'd gone to sleep or he'd gone to Ben's. I was relieved. disappointed. I suppose that was to be expected. Most of the time. When he didn't call back. "Can I have a few weeks to think about?" I asked. The light to David's room was on. for the first time in days. But." I had not heard back from Suzanne. I turned the lights back on and crossed to his bathroom door. "We look forward to hearing from you. It made me think I really had no idea what I was getting into. I unlocked the door. finally. like whimpering. working on a Saturday." Cheryl said. He must have left the lights on before he went out.
kicking down the toilet seat and pushing him by the shoulders so he was . “David?” “Hadley?” he called back shakily. “What happened?” “Nothing. Sit down. David?" I called softly. “Honey…” “Ben and I got into a fight. “David.the shower. “You want me to come in?" He didn’t say anything so I pushed open the door.” “He hit you?” “We got into a fight. already swollen shut. f-fine.” he said. I knocked.” “I’m fine. I darted across the bathroom. “Yeah. His lip was split and he was bleeding from the gums. “David.” I repeated.” David repeated. "Hey.” I gasped. pressing a blood-strained cloth to his mouth. He was hunched over the sink. One of his eyes was brimming with tears. but it sounded like someone in pain. like this was different. I put my hands on his back. “Stay there. “You need to call the police.” he muttered. Here. The other was badly hurt. “David.” he said." I said.” I said. concealing the robin’s egg blue of his iris that had startled me the first time I met him. “You okay?” I asked.
"I'm going to call the cops.sitting. furious at the implication. Don’t get emotional. Stop. I’m getting you ice. I'll be right back.” “I never said you were." "Don't! Hadley. It was mutual.” “Well.” I tried to collect my thoughts as I walked to the freezer." "Don't call the police. Hadley. “Can you please just help me?” I sighed.” “No.” I yelled at him. “Just give me a second.” I walked back to David’s room." "Okay. it’s different. I . We got into a fight.” I muttered to the refrigerator. He’d pulled off his blood-spattered shirt and sat on the toilet. He’s been attacked by someone that he’s in love with. Hadley.” “It’s completely different. it’s not different.” He swallowed thickly. shivering. Be logical and be firm and you can talk about it in the morning. I’m serious.” “Nobody’s boyfriend should hit them. “I said I was fine. I won’t. It all sounded fine in my head. I’m not a girl. “Stupid fucking asshole. I'm begging you. but as I reached for a cloth to wrap the plastic bag of ice in. “David! He beat the crap out of you. Please don’t. “Motherfucker. I wanted to stomp Ben bloody.” His voice broke as he said it and I instantly regretted raising my voice.
I put on the kettle.” I said softly. But.” I swallowed.” he whispered brokenly.” he said softly. and helped him ease his aching shoulders into the sleeves.” he murmured. I clucked. I took his fleece to him. pulling him up. “I’ll make you tea. “You’re not an idiot. “Come into the living room.” “We just got into an argument. of course. looking for something that might make him smile.” I helped him onto the couch and flipped through the channels. drumming my fingers against the countertop. “Thanks. it was just an argument. I made a cup of Chamomile with honey and brought it to him. I couldn’t help myself. I ran my fingers through his short hair. “Thanks. I wanted to take it away for him. a cheesy ABC Family show we’d been obsessed with our freshman year. The silence was fraught with his fear and adrenaline.handed him the ice and went back into his room. But I found a rerun of Make it Or Break It.” he said softly. “What happened?” I asked as . “Love this show. That would be hard. Hadley. “I know what it looks like. when we were both clueless eighteen-year olds. “I feel like an idiot. I sat down cross-legged next to him on our couch and he leaned against me. He’d cut it for Ben.” “Yeah. cradling the cup in his hands.” I said.
But he was insisting they’d had a fight. “You know me. “But. I’m only verbally confrontational. But you shouldn’t stay with someone who hits you.” “Your boyfriend isn’t allowed to hit you. No matter how crazy about them . “No.neutrally as I could. I wouldn’t let him. Even though I didn’t see it that way. it was. But I tried. you know. “He hooked up with this girl. And I could already feel him tuning me out.” he said.” I said as firmly as I could. which was a totally different situation. “No. I tried to leave. “Did you hit him back?” I asked. He shifted. He got upset. I thought he should know that already. to go and he got pissed off and…” He swallowed and closed his eyes before he continued.” “And he hit you?” He shrugged. He laughed softly and sadly.” He bit his lip. I know this seems like a fight to you. no. “He tried to apologize. I know. and he wouldn’t let me. “I asked him—I asked him if he could stop doing that. I thought everyone knew that intrinsically.” I swallowed and nodded. “David?” “Yeah. yeah. I just didn’t know he’d snap like that. “Dave.” he shook his head.” David said. I’ll talk to him. physically. we were both winding each other up.
“I know you think I’m being insane. “It wasn’t like that. He reached for his tea and took a sip. “And he’s afraid about the whole thing and I just picked something that bugged him to begin with. but it was different.” “You really don't need to make excuses for him." I said. “David. And. I don’t know.” He didn’t say anything.” “I know. I can’t tell you that it’s . I’m not saying he should have hit me. David sat there quietly. like I’d understand. “How bad is it?” he asked in a small voice. you know. but he hit you. It’s like fighting my brother. I couldn’t let it go.” “He’s under a lot of pressure.” he said after a moment. really like him.you are.” “You keep saying that. as another commercial played. I bit my lip and we were quiet until the credits rolled. but I really.” I inhaled sharply. He’s not. “Let me see your eye. Keep the ice on it.” I let out a frustrated sigh. “No.” He dropped the ice from his eye and winced at me. “It’ll be fine. you know?” he said. I need you to trust me on this.” he continued. But we just got into a fight. Hadley. I refused to accept that. abusive. “I really like him. But it wasn’t the time for an argument. It was just a fight.
I need you to trust me." I said. . It looks bad.” “Fine. I was old enough to know that very few things in life were as black and white as they seemed when you were a kid. “I am not going to sit around and tell you to put up with it. It shouldn’t. I’m not going to give up on it yet. I said okay when I knew I shouldn't have.” I said hoarsely. Okay?" I met his eyes and I didn’t know what else to say. Hads. It was wrong. But this was one of them.” “Making you hide who you are? Isolating you from your friends? Hitting you? These are not the actions of someone who loves you.” “I’m not an idiot. And it was especially not okay for his so-called boyfriend to do it. but it’s not what you think. "Okay. But please don’t try to talk me into breaking up with him. with a touch of his former flair in his voice. I wanted to scream at myself as much as I wanted to scream at him.” he said. And the least okay part about it was that David was going to accept it. But. “I wouldn’t stay with someone who was dangerous.okay that he did that. I swallowed and he nodded gratefully. This didn’t happen. Because I’m telling you right now that it’s not going to happen. It was definitely not okay for anyone to hit my best friend.
lying on his bed. “David’s boyfriend beat him up.” I sighed." Jack was quiet for a brief second. “What happened?” “I don’t know. “But he.” I said. somehow. that’s fine with me that your douche bag boyfriend beat you up. I can’t kill him if you don’t tell me who he is. and that you’re an emotional wreck. I mean. David said it was a fight. I was totally starting to understand how someone could wear them everyday. who the fuck is his boyfriend?” “I can’t tell you. David. “I’m a fucking idiot.” I told Jack. Jack was quiet.” I was on my back looking up at the cracked ceiling with my head in Jack’s lap.” “Well. He’s in the closet and I guess he’s terrified of anyone finding out. No worries. Love is love. his eye is swollen shut. “I told David I wouldn’t. And he did this whole long thing where he was like I just need you to trust me on this. “Well. what else could you do?” . which was probably against one of our rules. and I wanted to stay here forever. and that you can’t see out of one eye. I lost my backbone. “Well. okay. And I said okay.Chapter Nineteen “Somewhere. of all the unbelievably stupid things to say.” I grinned briefly.” Jack made a noise in the back of his throat. in his boxers and one of his flannel shirts. I was just like.
That’s how criminals talk.” Jack shrugged. maybe at first. pressing his lips to my forehead. “What are you going to do with a car?” “Run him over. He’s my best friend.” “Well. baby. “Don’t look at me like that. I can do it. He smiled.” “David would kill me if I got this guy in trouble. baby.” I laughed.” “For David. I still think you have a backbone. He looked at me. “I’m sure they have some kind of process you can use.” I gave him a look. Get him to understand that’s it’s not okay.“I don’t know. I have a car.” I sighed. The police? Campus Health? CAPS?” CAPS was the mental health crisis center on campus. “Yeah. too. Drop him in the lake. I hadn’t even thought about that. Go bury him.” Jack said. I do .” Jack said softly. I could get violent for you.” Jack whispered.” I corrected. like he was thinking: “You want to report it?” he asked after a moment. “And I can beat the shit out of his boyfriend. “I could get violent for David. “Just tell me. “I don’t know. “To who?” “I don’t know.” “Do not—” “I’m allowed to call you ‘baby’ when I’m pretending to be a criminal. but only briefly.
” “Are you worried about David’s safety?” “No. Aside from newspaper people." "Well.” “But he said they got into a fight?” “Yeah." “Hads. I shook my head.” “I don’t know." I agreed." Jack rubbed his chin. He was happy to be gay. I mean the best thing would be David deciding this guy was a problem. Well. "I'll run it by him.” He ran his hand through my hair and leaned down to kiss me. And I feel like. a little bit. “Maybe David needs to take some boxing lessons. I mean.” I said. David's my only friend. I don't know. you know you’re doing your best. "I don't know. "Have you talked to him about it?" "Not since Thursday.trust him." "Yeah. It was an affectionate kiss more than anything . talk to him.” “Maybe it was just a fight. frowning. he feels like he has to hide it. Now.” Jack frowned. David was—he was different before he started seeing him. It's just disturbing. I don’t know. maybe.” “David didn’t hit him back. Psychologically. Sorry to burden you.” “Not a bad idea. I should be doing a better job.
You’ve definitely never seen me really drunk.” “I don’t think you’ve ever seen me really drunk.” “The night we first hooked up…?” He grinned. I hadn’t encountered anyone with as many books as Jack.else and I smiled up at him for a long minute. I sat up as he got to his feet. “I’d like to see that. Most students only . actually. breaking the silence. “Yeah. “Since you’re obviously not at war with anyone. His books—and he had over a hundred—were neatly organized above his desk.” I said.” “He tries to get us to write about things that are chaotic.” I said. “I’m not nice. “How do you even remember enough to do that?” “Exactly. “Oh. write an accurate account of a time when you were totally wasted. “What does he have you report on?” Jack asked. no. “I think I like you when you’re drunk.” He chuckled and shifted my head out of his lap. And how do you not make yourself sound like a total asshole?” Jack smiled.” I watched him go to his desk and pull down a book. And the ones that didn’t fit there lined a bookcase by his bed. It could be fun. “Like.” Jack laughed.” I said. you still like Riley’s class?” Jack asked. “So.
” he muttered over his shoulder. right?” “Yup. like the best books should be.” he said.” I replied. How did you get…” I cut myself off. a collection of Robert Riley’s articles on Bosnia. Someone had crinkled them while they were reading. “Godfather. “I mean. When I looked up. I’ve had it. This copy was worn and read and possibly even loved. That's a first edition. “Books are cool. I thumbed through the pages. . "Thought you might like it.bought books required for their classes. “Wow. “I got something for you. I could've said I already had it." he said. I have a couple copies. “Thank you. and all of them looked like they had been read." I had a copy of the paperback at home. but it wouldn't be true at all. Maybe over and over again. surprised and grateful.” he said sheepishly.” He moved a few books around and found the one he was looking for. “Here. Jack. I saw Jack’s familiar handwriting in the margins and ran my fingers across the words. He rubbed his chin and shrugged. But Jack had more books than any professor could assign. I took it. half-bashful. I think you’d like it. But. he was watching me.” “I don’t know if that’s against the rules or not. handing me a worn out copy of The Bombs over Bosnia. And it was Jack’s. I didn’t get it for you.
yeah.” I rolled my eyes.” “How is it that sleeping in the same bed means more to you than sex?” “It doesn’t mean more to me.” I told him.“Okay.” I set it gently down next to my bag and clothes and got out of bed. even you must have the time to sleep. I mean…I already had it. In my own bed.” “Tell me about it. “What are you doing tomorrow?” he asked. “Yes. I laughed. “I mean. yeah. And I leaned in for another kiss. deeper and longer.” “Yeah. “Newsp—” “You know. “You know. He smiled as I traded his clothes for my less comfortable ones. I loved the way he kissed me. you could sleep over. I turned my head.” he grinned. It’s not like…” he lifted his shoulders and sat down at his desk. But this felt more serious. I am really getting sick of that word. buttoning my jeans and slipping my feet into my Converse sneakers.” “Rules.” I replied. “Good.” “Thank you. “Alright. and we held each other’s eyes for a long moment before I cleared my throat and felt a flush rushing to my face.” I kissed him briefly and he reached for my wrist. . I held the book he’d given me in one hand and looked into his brown eyes.
“I will. just pick up the phone. Hads. "If you need anything.” ." I nodded and smiled back." He smiled. you know. Jack.“See you around.” "See you around.
I made reservations at Mill House. . thumbing through the draft of tomorrow’s issue. But it was just Andrew. “Hey. My phone vibrated in my pocket. my phone vibrated and I glanced at the screen. Andrew was waiting patiently. I typed out a response with my frozen fingers: Maybe 8:15? Meet you at the newspaper in 5. While there were things I would miss about Northwestern." He was in khakis and a button down. “Yeah. As if to make a point. the weather wasn’t one of them. I was actually wearing sweatpants. I’ll just…” Mill House was the sort of place you went with your parents. and I reached down. “You had somewhere nicer in mind?” He looked at my outfit hesitantly.” I said breathlessly when I reached my office. Does 8 still work for dinner tonight? I made a frustrated noise in the back of my throat. hoping to see Jack’s name lighting up the screen. “Sure. Um. "I just have to talk to Justin for two seconds and then we can go. Great." “Sure.Chapter Twenty It would be my last winter of walking across the long. cold campus from the parking lot to the newspaper office. Is that okay?" One of the most elegant and expensive restaurants in Evanston. I nodded once. no worries. If your parents were super uptight. I'd forgotten.
sorry. okay?" "Yeah." I crossed the office to Justin's computer. They'd recently diverted several million dollars earmarked for the football team to programs that would impact the student body. The university refuses to acknowledge how important we are to alums. but there've been repeated attacks on our program from administrators across the board—everyone from admissions officers to academic deans. I just." he said. but no other identifiers. “Attribution issues? "Yeah. sure. in 2007. Is skydiving against the rules? I raised my eyebrows and began to type back.Jack. “What’s up?” I asked. Take your time. This happened before.” "This is on the budget for 2014?" I asked. ." I read it over quickly: "The administration is trying to send a message." he said. five words with Justin. "I think it's critical enough that anonymity is okay here. "So. I looked up. "Yeah. "Right. “Change?” Andrew finished my sentence. I'll change. I have this on-therecord quote from an athletic coach who said I couldn't identify him by name or by what sport he coached. He said I could say he was a head coach of a varsity team. Sorry. I'm not going to name names.
It's not good policy to use the athletic budget for unfunded programs in the college. He’s telling us the administration is trying to send a message. "Sorry. in turn. “I’ve got to run. damaged the endowment because alumni giving went down in 2008. "You can use everything but the first two sentences. Thanks. Hadley.” “Thanks!” I hustled back to Andrew. “I think that looks good. we can’t run it. "Good point. Excellent. You in? Saturday? I bit my lip. ready?" He nodded.” I followed him down the stairs and pulled out my phone to text Jack: Skydiving is totally legal." I added. “Let’s go. but if he won’t back it up with anything specific and he won’t put his name behind it. Have fun. Okay. Sure. "And point out the fact that there was a financial crisis in 2008. . He can’t just editorialize on the situation anonymously." He cut part of the quote and we both scanned the article again to see if it still made sense." "Yeah. "And that giving to universities across the country went down." Justin nodded.” "Yeah.” I said. Text me if anything else comes up." Justin said." I shook my head.and it damaged the football program and that.” “I will.
" I promised. "Really?" I asked.” I shouted.” "I know." He parked next to the apartment building." I jogged upstairs quickly. “I’m at the newspaper office like every day. They're fun. "I'll be quick. His dad was some kind of oil magnate —something Andrew would never tell you. "I feel like I haven't seen as much of you lately. "No rush. The lights were on in our apartment and I heard the TV blaring as I kicked off my sneakers and walked in.” There was a loud crash as I tossed my keys on the table and I shrieked in surprise. I glanced at the time. . new Range Rover." I smiled. “I need help. He turned on the heat and I shivered." "I'll come. David was shirtless and he looked petrified and I could see Ben Mitchell hiding behind the couch." Andrew nodded.I slipped my phone into my pocket and walked out into the bitter chill to Andrew’s car. "I'll come to the next one. trying to think of something to wear to Mill House. "You should. I don't think you've been to one all year. Promise. but you used to come to the bar nights. A movie was playing. “David." Andrew said. He drove a fancy. driving towards my apartment. but Google quickly would.
“When did she find out?” Ben asked David. With the bow. “I don’t care.I hope he hurt himself. I really should have given Jack Ben’s name when he offered to run him over." David said." I said. That knit dress. I turned my attention to David who still looked completely startled. “Um. I have better things to do than talk about your sexuality. David. . Are your parents in town?” “No. David. I caught my breath. Ben. What should I wear to Mill House?” “Hadley. He glared at David. I didn’t like his tone of voice.” Ben got to his feet. leggings. sounding tired. “Jesus. boots. “She’d better not.” I informed Ben icily.” he muttered." “She knows. “There’s a person on the floor. “Mill House. Was that a threat? “Trust me. "She won't say anything. I thought uncharitably. It was astoundingly accusatory.” “Black dress.” I said. you scared me. "You said we'd be alone. “She knows?” Ben said explosively.” he said in a small voice. and I’ll sign a non-disclosure agreement if you’re going to get that worked up about it. I thought you were at the paper?" I glanced at Ben.” David said softly. Focus. I’m not going to say anything. Long-sleeved.
I’d hated him ever since he hit David. She’s the only person who knows. but now he was moving into full-blown enemy combatant territory. It liked to lie limp. put my hair down. “Andrew. right?" "It's not a date. twisting my hair into a low bun. We're talking about some special issue in February. I looked in the mirror. Okay?” I was really starting to despise this kid. "You're going on a date with Andrew Brenner. and I didn’t have the patience to encourage it to behave in any other way. and put my hair back up. that’s awesome. I walked to my room.” "So. David raised his eyebrows. There wasn’t much I could do about my hair.” I looked at him curiously. “Yeah. you're not seeing Jack anymore?" "What?" I asked. Ben and David were talking in low voices when I emerged.” David was saying.“Hadley!” David exclaimed. grimaced. soft black leggings and black boots. “I’m really sorry. I put on the exact outfit David had suggested: a long-sleeved knit dress. “Who is taking you to Mill House?” David asked cheerily." ." I exhaled. “I swear. "For Valentine's Day.” He smiled. “Aw. Hadley. it’ll be nice to get out of the office for a while.
“Sorry.." Shit. It's for the newspaper." "I’m going. The hair I had pushed behind my ears flew wildly. Definitely not a date..you're confused.” David chuckled. That was it. Nothing more. opening the door. no.” I said. dark-haired waitress scrutinized our driver’s licenses when Andrew asked for the wine list." I looked at him. Hadley.” He smiled. He’s taking you to Mill House. no. You were fast. A chic. I was going to dinner with Andrew. “No worries.” “It is not a date. You're. It’s not a date. That is a date. “Goodbye. The night winds off the lake blew ferociously as I walked to the car."Riight. Andrew ordered a bottle of wine expensive enough to .” "I bet you twenty dollars he tries to kiss you. "You look really pretty. A meal. It's Andrew. "No. Nothing less." David said. We were the youngest people at Mill House.” I took a deep breath in the hallway. By a decade. I felt Andrew watching me as I opened the door and pulled it shut. We would talk about the newspaper. “You can’t be serious.” I said. "At Mill House. At least.
my parents love this place. I had told him that I would never do anything to threaten our friendship. He’d seen me yell at copyeditors and nearly burst into tears when I hadn’t slept enough.” I nodded and closed my menu. But another part was putting together puzzle pieces I had wondered about before. a part of my brain whispered to me. “Sure. Get the truffle pasta. I didn’t need a $200 bottle of wine to like Andrew. I’d liked him from the start. "I haven't been since parents' weekend freshman year. I had said it was a mistake. When we'd kissed last year. He didn’t have to agree. It’s amazing.impress her.” I took a sip . So. Or maybe it was to impress me. ultimately. The way he was always asking if I wanted to hang out or seeing if I wanted to have lunch or coffee to talk about the paper. I just didn’t like him like that. David’s delusional . he had agreed with me." I raised an eyebrow. He’d seen me behave badly all year." He smiled. it wasn’t a date. I couldn’t think of one good reason why he should do either. "What do you like here?" I asked. But. "Yeah. Just trust me. I had apologized. He had just nodded his head in agreement. “Where is that?” “It’s one of their specials.
"I don't know. "Valentine's Day issue. “I'm glad you like it.of the wine. It's a white burgundy.” He smiled. She did an article about sexual assault on campus in September." "Really? Why?" "You grew up so close to Napa. I don't know. "Whatever's available." "Very cool. she’s really good. what do you normally drink?" he asked. “It’s really great." I smiled." "Right?" Andrew said." "I would've thought you knew more about wine. One of my mom's favorites. Juliet Robinson came up with it." I lifted my shoulders haplessly. people don't read her articles. I guess you'll just have to be the expert tonight. You know Juliet? She does the local news roundup and campus crime report?" I nodded. “So. “How is it?” I only knew enough about wine to know that I didn't appreciate it. honestly. So this is a real treat." I looked around the restaurant uncomfortably." He laughed. "Yeah." I cleared my throat.” "So. "Of course. “Fine be me. I cleared my throat awkwardly and fiddled with my place setting." “It's a good idea. He didn’t seem to have anything to say. It got like 22 hits on the . "Anyways.
What’s your problem with it?” he smiled. "Listen. "Our job is to cover the news. and relationships on campus. And Valentine’s Day is a relationship holiday.website." I said. "I don't hate it.” He grinned. "I also think my mother's kitten Priscilla is stupid and I adore her. "It's a good idea. "So. "Except for it’s a secular holiday and the victims aren't factory farm animals but fellow students. "It’s a newspaper. the alternative is writing about Valentine's Day?" "It’s just changing the packaging. It's not to be advocates for social change or to celebrate a holiday. I think it's stupid. It’s not a stretch to do an issue that deals with relationships. I sipped my wine. It's like doing an Easter issue to draw attention to the plight of factory farm animals." I said. Andrew smirked and I sighed. I mean. come on. I know you hate Valentine's Day." I exhaled.” I opened my mouth and then closed it." I sighed. Juliet has spoken to a bunch of different people who said they'd be willing to write about their experiences. Hadley. sex. . All the stuff that nobody talks about after freshman orientation like date rape and safe sex. Love. We can make it personal." Andrew said. Andrew.
He refilled my glass and then his. And flowers. “You’re such a cynic. And chocolate. it's also about pink.” I shook my head. You don't think it's at least a little bit about relationships?" I took another sip of wine and Andrew reached for the bottle. “The whole thing is antiquated." "Yeah. And teddy bears. It's about sex." "Valentine's Day is not just about sex.” I said. Or between people who want to have sex with each other. I shook my head. You and I have a relationship. "Some people do. Otherwise people would marry their best friends all the time. Marriage was a social construct to protect property and .” He laughed.” "Do what?" "Marry their best friends. "It's not at all about relationships. We should. Juliet and I have a relationship.And I'm not saying we should cover these issues.” Andrew gave me a small smile. None of which are newsworthy. And Valentine's Day isn't about any of those relationships. But we shouldn't use sex and the color pink to package them. It's about relationships between people having sex with each other. David and I have a relationship. "You really think that's the only difference?" “Yeah.
“It’s about more than . with a smile. but now it's basically a moot point. But when it comes to anger and all of that ugly stuff. It's on the decline: marriage. come on. honestly. aren’t you?” I grinned. Can you imagine if criminals went around saying they fell into hatred or jealousy and that’s why they killed four people or robbed the bank? We act like love is this uncontrollable thing.” “Oh. “The idea that people fall in love. You just fell? Really?” Andrew laughed at me.” “I loathe that phrase. “It sounds so sloppy.” “Well…even unromantic people fall in love. all that." “God.” “Seriously?” Andrew asked. “It can’t come as a shock to you that I’m not a romantic. that we expect people to control themselves except for when it comes to wanting to sleep with someone.” he said. We’re supposed to handle those emotions without hurting anyone. But throw out the word ‘love’ and everyone thinks all of the rules should go right out the window and who can help it if someone gets hurt? It’s absurd and it’s degrading. relationships. you really are from San Francisco. “What? It’s ridiculous. It made social sense before the advent of birth control.ensure that women with children weren’t abandoned.” I said. Control your emotions. It doesn’t make biological sense. we’re expected to control it.
“Yeah. and I until the end of time. You’re supposed to fall in love. well. “Not everyone likes themselves that much. That makes one of us. “Thank you. He looked away from me.” He finished his wine and refilled the glass. withdrawing from the argument. “Who wants to end up alone?” “I wouldn't mind. "Sorry.” He cleared his throat. I’d probably be okay with that. you're good company. It’s sex and not wanting to be alone.” Andrew shrugged." I said. “I just think people our age don’t want to put themselves out there anymore. And that’s why everyone keeps getting hurt. amused at how personally he was taking my refusal to believe in people falling in love. well what?” I asked. “So if it was just me.” “I don’t think it is. “Yeah. And so nobody actually falls in love. My parents . They play it safe. I like you a lot better than I like myself. myself. He looked like he suddenly thought dinner was a bad idea." he pointed out. well.” I caught the soft look in his eyes.sex." I bit my lip. The waitress set down our entrees.” “Yeah. Everyone is afraid to be alone.” He managed a weak laugh. "Well. "I mean.” Andrew bit his lip. And so they don’t.
got married when they were twenty. "We should split it. "Please. So you can have a family and stability and someone…someone to come home to. we have weaknesses.” I raised my eyebrows. we shared dessert and Andrew got the bill. I ordered the .” “Well. And they’re still married.” “Why?” He hesitated. Even the ones of us who were sure it would all work out had to remind ourselves that we would be okay." I said.” He had such an earnest look in his eyes just at that moment. But who really knew? We all worried sometimes. Andrew shook his head. We all have our own doubts. Even in our strong places. But you have to play the game. “I don’t know. After we’d discussed separatists in Libya and gun control in the Senate and whether the Northwestern basketball team could possibly get any worse this year. We all have weaknesses. I was sure it was exorbitant. “My parents got married when they were twenty-one and they aren’t. that’s the thing. I wanted to promise him that he was going to fall wildly in love and laugh so hard when he remembered how he used to think he might end up alone. it’s a crapshoot.
” “Absolutely. don't feel obligated. I stopped.” He laughed. Juliet can run it." He handed his card to the waitress and leaned back. "Well. So. I don’t feel obligated. We’ll do the issue." I insisted." I said awkwardly. Bambi eyes. "Yeah? You sure. leaving his hand on my lower back. There just wasn’t a graceful way to pull away. And that’s when I saw a pair of dark eyes across the room. "Ready to go?" "Whenever you are. They flashed and looked away." I smiled.” “I really just wanted to take you to dinner. Hadley.wine. Dark and doe like and briefly vulnerable." "Well. I giggled nervously when Andrew caught my hips." "Ah." He laughed.” He signed the credit card slip. and my boot slipped on the carpet. I drank it. "I haven't been this full since Thanksgiving. "No way. “It’s throwing off my center of balance. "You’ve convinced me on Valentine's Day. You made a good argument. “Well. . We turned towards the door." I was slightly tipsy from the wine. Andrew smiled and shook his head again. Jack’s eyes." I told Andrew.
Sorry. Jack was sitting across the table from Robert Riley. That Jack surely was upset about something unrelated to me. I faked a yawn. too. I managed to twist away from Andrew at the door. though from a distance I could see a tight ball of tension in his jaw. I wondered what they were talking about. He wasn’t my boyfriend. he gave me no sign. but a dark zip-up sweater. Yeah. He smiled. Riley was speaking intently and Jack was nodding. If he knew I was staring. We should do . It was for the newspaper. I wasn’t on a date. He wasn’t wearing plaid.” I said. That was the whole reason I’d said yes. His handsome face betrayed nothing else. as he started the car and blasted in the heat. He obviously had no intention of saying hello. I told myself it didn’t matter. “Hadley?” Andrew repeated. “Thanks for dinner.” I said. He’d looked away from me already. I leaned my head against the cold car window when we got in. turning to smile uncertainly at Andrew. Neither was Andrew. “Yeah. That was fun. wrapping my arms around my body and scurrying to the car.wavering. “What’s up?” Andrew asked. Even better than usual. It made him look good. It made him look just a few years older and a shade more serious. and Andrew stopped. “Everything okay?” “Yes.
” “Mm.that again. and turned to go.” I said. and unbuckled my seatbelt in one motion. “Seriously. Ben cradled David’s face in his hands and kissed him tenderly.” “You don’t have to do that. Thanks.” I smiled. I’ve got mace and everything. “Well. kissed his cheek.” He smiled tightly.” Andrew bit his lip.” I closed the car door and jogged upstairs. They both smiled at each other for a long moment before Ben dropped his hands. we should do this again. The brief drive to my apartment was quiet except for the sound of a late night NPR host droning on about drones.” Andrew said.” I smiled. shaking out my hands. “You might go broke. “I’m good. “Yeah. I yawned again when we reached my place. He was embarrassed and I felt a twinge of guilt. I saw David and Ben standing in the open doorway to our apartment. “I don’t know if we should make a habit of it. I ducked my head. Well. “You too. I opened the door and shivered in the cold air. Andrew. which had gone numb.” I nodded noncommittally. .” I rubbed my chin. When I reached the second floor. “No problem.” He leaned towards me for a kiss. kissed David’s forehead. “I’ll walk you up. have a good night.
“I am nothing like you. “It was a disagreement." “Look. “Relax. “I mean it.” he said to me. he saw me. “How was the date?” I couldn’t believe he was trying to have a conversation with me. You know. You wouldn’t understand.” Ben looked taken aback. “Do you want to ask David?" “If you ever hit him again. you really need to keep your mouth shut.” “I think I’m David’s boyfriend.” I said fiercely. I’m calling the cops. I don’t know who the fuck you think you are.The door closed before either noticed me. Ben turned towards the stairwell. I told him I was sorry. I never think anything is a date either. I couldn’t help myself. Alright? You need to give David a break.” “Is that what you think?” I asked. “Hey. “It wasn’t a date. But.” . When he looked up. Hadley. I mean it. I’m calling the cops.” I glared at him. you sound like me. We got into an argument. Ben jerked his head back.” Ben grinned. “David wouldn’t want you to threaten me. “Got it. “And then I’ll ruin your life. Ruin it.” Ben shook his head.” I shook my head. That’s not okay. his head down. It was a joke.” I said. If you hit him again. He shook his head. Ben smirked.
Ask David.” Ben was quiet. “He couldn’t even talk.” “No. I do understand. David doesn’t have the most normal idea of what a healthy relationship looks like.” “Well. “No. I’m not like his goddamn family.” he said. “You could start by acknowledging he exists when you ask him . I didn’t know that. “I understand a lot better than you because I was the one who took care of him. I screwed up.” Ben was quiet. He exhaled. “He didn't tell me that. Don’t tell me I don’t understand. Alright? You don’t need to tell me that. “I don’t care what David says and I don’t care how bad you feel. “We have a healthy relationship. I’m calling the cops.” I said.” I said icily. bewildered. I care about him.He tried to step around me and I stopped him. I snapped.” I said. do a better job of showing it.” “What do you mean.” I said. “His eye was swollen shut and he lost a tooth. If you hurt him again. I didn’t mean to hit him that hard. I don’t care. “Listen.” Ben looked at me. you didn’t mean to hit him that hard?” “I just wanted him to shut up and listen. he was so upset. He licked his lips. You have no idea how sorry I am.
David really would be furious if he knew. making sure Ben had retreated down the hallway. “But. Flowers in a vase. I took a deep breath before I pushed it open. stepping around him and walking to the apartment door.” I glanced over to the counter. “Yeah. right?” "I think Andrew thought it was. I smiled. I nodded. trying not to shake from my confrontation with Ben. “Jack was there. He came to apologize. right?” David shrugged. it wasn’t a date. “You owe me twenty dollars.” Ben shook his head. no. “Figured. girl. David bit his lip.” David was quiet.” I rubbed my chin. “Yeah. that’s bad. I hadn't noticed them before. David was sprawled on the couch.” I replied.” I said.” I nodded once. “How was your date?” “Wasn’t a date?” “Did he try to kiss you?” I exhaled. swooning. “Ben?” I asked. Gardenias. “It won’t happen again. “Have a good night. I didn’t.” “Shit.” David said. “Hey. “I mean. Ben.” .” “Hey.to meet you at a fucking bar.” I said sarcastically.
“No. Would you please just drop it?” I didn’t say anything for a moment.” He smiled. if you want to report it.” He nodded and got up.” “Because I mean.” “Hadley. hurt eyes. humming underneath his breath. to fill the vase with water. and then anger.” I watched him turn towards the sink. feeling profoundly sad all of a sudden. I can corroborate everything. “I should put them in water. even the way Ben wore his fear of being found out in the deep furrow of his brown—all of the pain they tried to bear in silence had signed its signature so clearly across their half-broken faces. “You want tea?” I shook my head.” He smiled. adjusting the stems so the flowers fanned in a wide circle. I’m just going to call it a night.“You trust him?” “I do. “Well. thinking of Jack’s flash of sadness. David’s trembling lips. Andrew’s flat. I turned and walked towards the bedroom. and then indifference at the restaurant. the flowers are nice. “Okay. . It was so easy to see so many things if you just stopped for the briefest moment and watched closely enough—Jack’s knotted jaw.
" I said. encourage resolution. It wasn't an intelligent thing to fixate on—not when I needed to make a decision about USA Today ." "What do we mean by conflict-sensitive journalism?" "Journalism that actively works to reduce conflict. yes. and avoid looking like an idiot in Riley’s class. "Good. He nodded.” Riley nodded. I looked at him blankly.Chapter Twenty-One I didn't hear from Jack for three days. keep up with Arabic homework. But I was fixated. I wasn't paying attention. "Well. say the opinions of low-ranking members of the military or unarmed civilians. acknowledging widespread beliefs without necessarily validating them. Part of conflict-sensitive journalism is just good journalism. "Anyone home?" Riley demanded. according to Ross Howard. "Can that kind of journalism ever be unbiased?" I paused. "I'm sorry. Not relying on the statements of spokesmen. looking to report on. So much so that I didn't hear the question Riley asked me Friday afternoon. And why do journalists . And it encompasses more than writing articles that will encourage people to be nice to one another.
"Professor Riley?" He nodded.have an obligation to follow Howard’s principles?" "Because journalists are mediators. He glanced at the clock. "You'll each be assigned a journalist who lost his or her life in combat. When you frame a conflict in Syria. what he wrote that we will remember.” Riley nodded. you also inform the opinion of someone halfway around the world reading your paper. everyone sped out the door. "Exactly. but at four-thirty on a Friday afternoon. as intractable. We will also be doing the first round of profiles in courage. retrospective magazine piece—who she was. On Mondays and Wednesdays. for example. "Be safe this weekend. what he did. I looked up. They make choices on what to communicate and how to communicate it." ." The class cleared out quickly. how she died." he said. and what do we learn from it. please. And that has real-world effects. "Yes." He looked around the classroom and nodded. Frame it as a short. waiting so that the room would be empty when I asked him for help. We'll be concluding our ethical inquiry into reporting from areas of conflict next week and moving onto specific conflicts in our modern world. When the door closed and it was just me and him. people always hung back to talk to him. I took my time deliberately.
but it's not a tea party." "Well. get another offer. The position is at the D. like he’d tolerate me for a few seconds “I have a job offer. Politics. I didn't get it.C. "Not a bad paper. okay. You're a smart kid. "For the Africa bureau. "They tell you a lot of things about job interviews. And you're tough." "Listen." he said. "Well." I smiled weakly." He paused."I was wondering if maybe I could talk to you about my career after college. "Not enough experience. " "Yeah. "They say why?" I nodded." "Yeah." I said. And I'm not that interested in policy." he said flatly." . "You're the Editor-in-Chief of the undergrad paper." "Yeah." He nodded." "Where else have you interviewed?" "Just The New York Times . bureau." I said." He nodded. He nodded. Where at?" "USA Today. And I d—” "Turn it down. "Right. yeah?" "Yeah. I don't have another offer. I don’t know if I should take it.” "Scrap a little bit.
” I grinned. “You’re too talented to fuck around.” He opened the door. "Nobody likes a journalist who doesn't seem committed. I want to talk to you. they're not necessarily going to give it to you then either. “Right. I nodded. Jack. dismissing me.“You sure you don’t want to do policy?” “I want to do conflict and combat in the Middle East. You speak Arabic. right.” “Really?” “Don’t get excited. “Professor Riley." he said.” He nodded once. Arrington? You’re going to have to get into the habit of telling people what you want if you’re going to have a fighting chance at it.” he said. “I might have something from you. “I’ll make a phone call.” He nodded. I bit my lip. letting me out before him and I grinned broadly. but—” "Don't take it if you already know it’s not what you want.” He gave me a knowing look. thank you.” He nodded once. When you tell them in two years you want something different. “A word of advice.” he said. and I walked away. reaching into his pocket for a cigarette. “Thanks. "Yeah.” “I mean it.” I said. “Maybe I could like policy. . thinking about Jack rather than journalism when he said that. kid?” I nodded.
So I drove to the frat house. I stepped into the house without knocking. texting on his phone with one thumb. Are you free? Yeah. I texted him: Do you want to come over? Nothing. Or I can come there? He wrote back right away: Yeah. and sipping a beer. If you want. I wanted to see him and ask him why he'd been acting weird. and up the stairs. walked past a snowman-building contest deteriorating into a drunken snowball fight in the front yard. Meaning he didn’t really care. knowing I should tell him that it seemed like he was ignoring me and I wanted to know why.knowing I should talk to Jack. Which he totally had been. Keeping Riley’s advice in mind. I reached my car and made a face. He sat in between Xander and a kid named Nate. I did care. I waited long enough to be sure he wasn't going to ask me to come over. both of them too riveted by a basketball game to notice . if you want. I texted him as I walked to the parking lot. parked my car. Maybe it was all about seeing me with Andrew. but I felt sure I had told him Andrew was just a friend. Jack sat slumped down on a couch in the living room. Well.
"Stop eyefucking each other and go to your room.” Jack said shortly.” Jack turned and looked at him. He stood up. "What's your problem?" Nate asked him. Xander smiled casually. towards his room. “You know I’m joking." He looked at me. “Hey. like he could see right through the jacket I was wearing." I said softly. He leaned forward. “It’s not funny. He looked surprised." "Xander's fucking stupid. “Upstairs?" I shrugged. “Christ. saying it mainly for my benefit. “Hey. .me. I leaned my head towards the door. "What do you want?" he asked coolly." he muttered as we left the living room and walked up the stairs. He closed the door behind me and took off his shirt roughly. "Sure.” he said to Xander.” he said. Diamond. Jack did though. Jack shrugged. He was pissed off. "Hey. without breaking eye contact. and turned his attention fully to the basketball game on the screen. resting his forearms on his knees. "Should I go?" He looked at me shamelessly." Xander muttered. He took a long sip of his beer. chuckling. He nodded at me.
" I said. “I thought we weren’t going to ask each other personal questions. don’t tell me you don't date people when all you really mean is you don't take me seriously." he smiled bitterly. "I mean this is fun and all.” he said. but—” "Complicated? You go to dinner with Andrew Brenner and you fuck me? No. "You told me that. He thought I was just here for sex. "How exactly did I lie?" "I thought you didn't date anyone. Hadley. This is really fucking great. "And let me finish. I cocked my head at him. But. "You’re mad about dinner. And don't tell me something is complicated when it's actually really simple." "He took you to dinner to talk about Valentine's Day?" “The Valentine’s Day issue of the newspaper. “Jack?" “What?” he asked roughly. He looked away. I already .” I exhaled." "Andrew is the managing editor of the paper." he said. that's not complicated. "He wanted to discuss a Valentine's Day issue. He had stopped smiling. “What are you doing?” He smiled sarcastically." I ran my hand through my hair.Well that was direct. Maybe he saw the hurt in my eyes.” "You lied. right?" "It's complicated.
" he said. I’m not lying to you—” “You—” “Would you let me finish?” He looked at me. He doesn’t…. "I thought we'd go to Chipotle or something. “Fine.he’s nothing like you. “Hadley." "That's what happened!" "I know you. finish.told you it wasn't a date. He’s. Jack stepped back.” I took a breath." “It’s different. "Right. “I don’t think you understand how much you scare me. You say 'no' like nobody's business. Obviously. good to know where I stand.” He was quiet for a second. how the hell do I scare you?” . He spoke softly. "You wouldn't have gone if you didn't want to." I said." He laughed bitterly. Well.he doesn’t scare me like you do." “I didn't have time to talk about the issue last week and I said we'd talk over dinner to get him off my back. I didn't even remember I'd agreed to dinner until five minutes before and he had to drive me home to change because he'd made a reservation at Mill House. We wouldn't be having this stupid argument if you did. He took half a step towards me..” I snapped.” “How is it different?” “Because he’s not like you.. hurt." “You don’t know where you stand. "Right. Jack.
He pressed his forehead to mine.” “Why?” “Because I like you. “That was good. They loved me well. He undressed me slowly. He pulled me to him. His eyes were deep. I caught my breath curled against his shoulder. He understood that I was stressed out and afraid that everyone would find out how much I was faking it. You're my friend and I'm sleeping with you and I just like you.” I said softly." he said. “Okay." Oh. He kissed my stomach right above my hipbone. His mouth and his muscles and his hands knew me well. He could taste that I was afraid of so many things. I like having you around and I'm not used to that.” I whispered and he laughed gently. I like you. too. Something deeper that words passed between us when we had sex. He said things without speaking and I understood without hearing. I understood that he was a little lost and confused. Even him. “I just thought…” “I’m not dating him. "Well.” he said. kissing me everywhere.” he said. “You just do." I smiled sarcastically." He took a step towards me and he reached for my wrists." "Right. “You excited to skydive?” .I looked at him and whispered. He took his time. "You've been dying to see me. Especially him. “I’m sorry.
“Hads?” “Yeah. Could you fly out for an interview next week? Dale Broussards I wrote back immediately. “I should go.” When I finally left the frat house.“Can’t wait. Rob Riley suggested you might be a good fit for a position in the Middle East this summer. “Good. agreeing. I know you've interviewed for the Cairo bureau. I decided Jack might be good luck. He dropped a kiss on my neck.” I sat up and he ran his hands up my body once more.” I said. I checked my email and found a short note from a New York Times editor.” He smiled.” he whispered into my ear. Hi Hadley. . “I promise.” “You don’t have anything to be afraid of.
"Yeah.” Jack said.” “Jack’s skydiving solo. "Where?" "The New York Times .” Xander said. meeting my eyes in the rearview mirror. he caught me staring and smirked. Xander and Nate took the front." "You've made this a hobby?" "Yeah. “Couple of times.Chapter Twenty-two "I have an interview." I told Jack. We took Xander’s old Jeep south of the city. when I arrived at the frat house early Saturday morning. thinking about anything other than jumping out of a plane." he said. Jack and I got the back seats. Whenever I looked over at him." I said." "I'll have to tell him to stop doing that. “Yep. “I want everyone to know that this is a bad idea. I exhaled. "Your godfather actually helped me out.” Xander told me. "Everyone else is getting tied to a professional. “You’ve done this before?” I asked him.” he said. He leaned his head against the cold window and I leaned my back against the door and put my feet in his lap. “And it's all Jack's fault." "Why?" ." “It’s not a bad idea." “Seriously? Have you done that before? By yourself?” He nodded.
” I raised my eyebrows.” "Well.” I smiled and looked at him.” he smiled." “I didn’t do anything evil.” .” “What for?” “Kid stuff. It was Costa Rica. actually. When I was fourteen. “Marijuana.” he said. Very old-fashioned place. Not everyone is from San Francisco. "What? Why?" "I don't know. “They’re just guidelines. “I did this outward bound type of thing after I got kicked out of boarding school.” “Not quite. “Your rules are okay. how'd you get into that?" “Um. “Why not?” “Seems a bit extreme.” he assured me. “Anyone who bans flowers I’m willing to listen to.” “We can’t all be Editors-in-Chiefs in our free time. you know. He smiled. They probably taught you a class on how to roll a joint.” I said dryly.” he said. marijuana.He smiled. breaking curfew. “Alcohol. I’m not great with rules. “I got kicked out of a few boarding schools actually." "I meant boarding school. in Costa Rica.” I raised my eyebrows incredulously.
“Come on." I said." "No. “I have trust issues and watch reality .” “No." He lifted his chin. “So. I wrinkled my nose at the idea of Xander and Nate and Jack hearing the answers to my interview questions.“Really? So. when will you find out if you get the Times job?" “I don’t know. “What’s your greatest weakness?” I grinned.” “Why?” I asked. Like a week after my interview probably.” I said. you will go to dinner with me?” I laughed. “I’m seriously starting to hate this Brenner kid. I’m just outraged you had the time for dinner with him. “What’s your greatest strength?” “What?” “Let’s practice for your interview.” He grinned at me goofily. "Is that what you're going to tell the guy who interviews you?" "I'm going to tell the guy who interviews me that my greatest strength as a journalist is precision. "What? You're suddenly shy?” "It's just a personal question. He chuckled back. embarrassed. “I don’t know." I said. "You should practice." Jack grinned.” I said.
" I said.TV. "I am. “Jack doesn’t even know how to attend a meeting and he managed to organize a mandatory meeting on your behalf." Nate insisted. it was. "It's a fraternity. "Yes. He's profoundly lazy. nothing would have happened. "He's the laziest person in the world. "Being drunk and kind of homophobic is par for the course. And I didn't think it would work.” I laughed and my dark hair fell in front of my face. What's yours?" He gave me a once-over." "Yeah." "Why?" "Because the guys are immature and they thought it was funny. "It's not like we have any real authority. He shrugged. I looked at Jack and shook my head. "I don't think that's true.” "It wasn't on my behalf." Jack told me. If you hadn't been the one asking." Nate said. "Not into meetings at all. “Brunette reporters.” Nate chimed in. She . I still think he’d have listened. to be honest. I shrugged." Jack persisted. "Seriously. "Hadley's a little confused about Greek life." "I know that. really." Nate said. “This is probably true." Nate said." "No." Jack said." I said." Xander and Jack chuckled.
thought we were a pillar of responsibility.” I said. And I opened the car door. "Maybe I'm naïve and idealistic. Jump. I watched them. Of. Jack had signed the release forms before. “I never thought it was funny. I thought you were a little bit funny. Fuck. “Just pretend you're writing a newspaper article in Egypt. I acknowledged that I had agreed to jump out of a plane. but sometimes you have to be.” Jack met my eyes and smiled.” Jack teased. "That's great advice. In February. looking down the simple. Everyone left him alone. Out. A. and watched the safety videos.” We pulled up to the skydiving facility and for the first time all day. "I don't think it's funny." I shrugged. It was bitingly cold and it would be even colder when we jumped. serious injury." Jack laughed. "And it worked out. . I signed the form with a shaky hand. Death.” Jack said unhelpfully." I admitted quietly. I smiled at him. too. Plane. “I am absolutely going to kill you. "It's more like a club that supports underage drinking and loose morals. paved runway. all that jazz. “Don’t freak out." I wondered when he started being able to read me like that.” Nate nodded knowingly.
“I didn’t think anything could feel as amazing as skydiving until I slept with you. Jack. I’m sure. but I liked the way it felt. “Oh. He laughed and kissed me lightly on the cheek. screw you. It should probably be against the rules. “Look. so I just leaned against him. “Oh.” I arched my head back. Patrick. We hadn’t talked about that. You’re starting to be my good friend.” I shook my head. “Trust me.” I hissed. yeah? So.” A man named Jonesy buckled me into a harness while the plane idled nearby. very softly. I drove all the way out here. shaking his head.Jack laughed. and I were all jumping tandem. He’d done this before. I’m jumping out of a goddamned plane. Xander. what’s this? Double-checking?” He laughed.” “I do trust you. in . “No. He nuzzled me under his chin and spoke softly. I told myself. It’s the parachutes that I’m suspicious of. There was no reason to worry. This is just to keep things interesting.” He laughed and slipped his hands around my waist and he leaned into my ear and spoke very. The plane was noisy and I sat back on a bench. while Jack was flying solo. Don’t fuck this up. you don’t have to jump if you’re really freaked out. PDA.
“Cozy?” he asked. like an . He’d risen to his feet to watch me go.” Jonesy shouted over the rattling engines. I didn’t think it was possible to have this many butterflies in your stomach. The earth was spread out beneath us.” I breathed. “Pull your goggles on. I felt safe. Not okay.” he said. The plane taxied down the runway and surged through its take off. “Alright. Okay?” Not okay. So not okay. All I could hear now was the wind and the noise.” “Okay. I could hardly hear the instructor who I was strapped to shouting in my ear. “Let’s start moving. panicked. here we go. I shut my eyes until I heard them open the door. and I looked at Jack.” he said. The air was frigid. as the earth shrunk below us. I made a made a face. And then we were standing outside the plane. “We’re going to open the door in just a minute and then we’re going to jump. sweetheart. Actually. “Alright. breathtakingly cold. who grinned at me.Jonesy’s lap. I turned my head. We stood up and awkwardly moved to the door. He walked me right to the edge of the plane. flat. across from Jack. The engines roared in my ears. My chest tightened and my stomach went wild. And when I caught his eyes.
He pushed me out and we tumbled. My brain went clear. All I could remember was that we were jumping. We slowed and then we were just drifting over the earth. stripping the warmth from my body and the air from my lungs. We flipped once. I felt like I was on drugs.” I murmured as I was flooded with endorphins. And that’s just what I did. I felt my toes just over the edge of the doorway. Like all of the things I ever worried about would never return. Even though my teeth chattered. the air was the sweet Jesus kind of cold. with my arms up against his like a gliding bird. But my legs shook as we stood. filling my mouth. “Lift your feet up and then try to stand. I felt perfect. We landed gently. All I could see was the earth. I was pressed tightly against Jonesy’s chest. rushing through my nose. Everything was white and gray for miles.unfurled map. He lightly touched my waist and unstrapped me and I sat . My neck strained against the pressure and then it didn’t feel like we were falling at all.” Jonesy told me as we approached the ground. I wanted to drift forever. We were still dropping fast. but we were no longer accelerating. three times and the dark line of the horizon spun in my eyes like a spinnaker. “Oh my god. I felt my heart riot in my chest. twice. I never wanted to land. He opened the parachute and I felt tightness around my chest and arms as we came out of the freefall.
And my knees buckled. . And he landed at a half-run. He laughed and pulled me to my feet. he kissed me deeper than anyone has ever kissed me before. which twisted underneath me. Are you okay? Did you—what just happened?” Jack asked. we could see the other two parachutes opening and Nate and Xander drifting back to earth. Standing in an open field. The bastard. Ow. He helped me sit up. So he didn’t catch me. but not without feeling a sharp shooting pain in my knee. I looked up at the sky. with a parachute still strapped to his shoulders.” I said. “Shit. whipping through the wind. shucking off the harness. “Jesus. I caught myself on my hands. In the distance.down. “Holy shit. “Holy shit. They actually buckled. “Can we do that again?” I asked breathlessly. grabbing at the horrible stabbing in my left knee. Shit.” I said as I watched Jack dropping in alone.” I repeated to him. He came in faster. And the thing about your knees buckling that they never tell you in the movies is that usually you’re never expecting it and usually neither is he. He smiled and dropped his head. taking a few big steps forward and then jogging over to me.
“It really fucking hurts. deep and penetrating and awful.” I grumbled as he pushed the wheelchair to the doors.” I said. “She hurt her leg." "I made you weak at the knees?" "I'm serious.” “Oh my god. real hatred. can you stand up?” “I don’t know.” . I had crutches. “Babe.” I said.” “That’s not possible.” he said. breathing hard. alright. Anyone who tells you that you should wait for that guy who makes you weak at the knees should be shot.” And it did. “Hey!” He shouted to one of the instructors. alright. I lay on the cold ground. "Are you seriously hurt?" "Yes.“I have a Charlie horse in my knee. Sweetly. “I hate you. Can you…” They started running over and he looked back down at me. It hurts. “Actual. Three hours later. shut the fuck up. “Alright. I’m dying. Percocet." I growled. Nate and Xander had stuck out the whole ordeal in the waiting room while Jack tried not to laugh when I told the doctor that my knee just collapsed after he’d kissed me. and a brace for my sprained knee. It was like a stabbing pain." "What happened?" "Me knees went out.
” he said.” “No more than eleven pounds.“That’s against the rules. I’m not taking you back to the hospital tonight. “There is no elevator.” I replied dryly. Jack looked at me skeptically. no. He took my tote bag over his shoulder.” I said.” he said.” Xander dropped me and Jack off at my apartment.” I stumbled and he steadied me. testing out my crutches on the staircase.” “Okay. I lolled in his arms. “You need to take the elevator. “Good answer. No hatred. . but I was sleepy and who the fuck wanted to walk up stairs when they were on painkillers and someone would carry them.” He picked me up abruptly. “You are going to die on these stairs. like I was an infant and began walking up the stairs. “No. We reached the stop of the stairs and he set me down. “I don’t want to hear a goddamned word about how much I weigh. flower child. “Says who?” “I’m making a rule. I’d normally put up a fight. giving me a look like he dared me to make fun of him.” “Don’t be such an alarmist. no.” he said. and helped me to the door.
” He stepped towards him and shook his hand. Hadley?” David said. I had forgotten. then at David.” David said in an entirely different tone when he realized I was on crutches. “Shit. "Hey. “What’s up. You guys went skydiving? That's awesome. then back to Ben. annoyed.” I muttered. Jack. “Seriously. I had completely forgotten that he planned on having Ben over. standing up. I snuck a look at David.” I said. He was going to kill me. “She tripped. when I don't have to meet with my assigned .” he muttered breathlessly. “Fuck no. "How's it going? We were doing a chemistry project. He nodded at Ben.” Jack said awkwardly. You know. Jack looked at Ben." Ben said. He took my keys and opened the door. and both of them freaked out when they saw Jack. “What happened to your leg? Did your parachute not open or something?” “I would be dead if my parachute didn’t open. “Oh my God. putting down my crutches in the hallway and beginning the awkward jaunt to my apartment door.“What? No door-to-door service?” I asked. right? I don’t think we’ve officially met. David and Ben sat on the couch. I'd love to try that some time. Mitchell?” So they knew each other. smiling at each other. “David. Great.
” Ben said. “I make her week at the knees." He turned back to me. tried to act like the only reason he'd ever spend time with him was because he'd been assigned. embarrassed. right. David caught it. Jack's eyes flashed with what I was starting to recognize as his trademark look of silent fury. Not with anger." “Let me. I know we have ice." He grinned nervously. I was pretty sure he had put two and two together. “Look. How did you sprain your knee. With staggeringly insane heartbreaking hurt. "Yeah?" he said shortly." "What's wrong with your leg?" David asked. “Um. Ben cringed when David called me girl. well. “I know —hold on. At least he had the dignity to flush as he tried to disown David.partner for a mandatory project. You need to lie down. He knew Ben was the kid who attacked David. Ben was pretending that he didn’t remember his name. too. I should go. Do you need ice?” David asked. And I glared at Ben angrily. . Danny?” David’s eyes flashed. "I sprained my knee. I think you can take the rest of the project from here. biting his lip. Like he’d been slapped across the face.” Jack joked. "Come on. Ben was pretending not to know him. girl?” He scrambled into the kitchen. "Good luck with that.
Ben was halfway out the door already though. “W-would you excuse me?” He walked to his room quickly." “I’m not as neat as you. Ben Mitchell’s gay?” Jack asked. He pulled the door shut so hard that the doorframe rattled." He turned to go." "Just let him. I crawled into my bed.” I warned him when we reached my bedroom." Jack said. crawling . oh. so don’t have a panic attack. "Then we can get David.“His name is David. "Right. barely above a whisper. come on. "David. wait. Ben stopped and looked at Jack and then at David. we—we just met for the first time. "Don't apologize to me. I heard David’s bathroom door close softly.” Ben offered lamely. “So. "You should apologize to David.” David murmured. “Oh. His voice wavered. Ben flushed again and Jack turned his head to look uncritically at David." David said." I called after him. sorry. You need to lie down. “Here’s ice.” Jack said as I tensed. "Right." Jack said." "Don't worry about it. "David. We’re lab partners. sorry." Jack said.
David.” Jack said. "Hey." Jack didn't move. “He uses the word ‘faggot’ more than any straight guy I know." “He’s the one who beat David up.” “Don’t tell me this shit." "Please. get David for me. Hadley wants to talk you. Jack ran a hand through my hair.” he shouted. “That’s just—wow.” “The walls are thin. come in here." Jack sighed. “I can barely hear David say his name without wanting to hunt him down and David feels like I'm attacking him when I point out what a shit boyfriend he is. yeah?” I nodded. got to his feet and knocked on David's bedroom door. “Yo.” I said.next to me on the bed. "You are lazy.” Jack responded. I pushed him." .” I mumbled.” “I meant get up and ask nicely. “Don’t tell anyone.” “I know that.” “Don’t…” “I’m not going to. “Hey. He nodded but didn't move.” He sighed. “Well. "He might want to be alone. whenever you get a second. “David. It’s just ironic.” I asked. it’s certainly not your fault. man.
"Too late.” I insisted." "No." "It's cold in here. You can’t tell anyone.” he said. yeah." David called back shakily." "So don't make it." "Asshole." He gave me a perplexed look.” I said. David shot me a look of betrayal." “Was that your boyfriend?” Jack asked. can I say something?" Jack asked. "But I hate when it looks messy. "Do not do that. “He’s closeted." David appeared. “Hey. "I don't like making my bed.” David glanced warily at Jack and sat on the edge of my bed. “Get in here." Jack returned to my bedroom and lay down next to me." David said. "Ah." He yanked at the covers. a few minutes later. "Just a minute. ."Yeah. pulled them under and then over me. “I didn’t say anything. "Get under the covers. slightly red-eyed." he said." He yanked at the sheets. "Hey. David looked at him twice as warily. “How are you feeling?” “Loopy as fuck.
as it is. “You said to let it be. “Well. “Just butt out.” David said. okay? It seems like you have enough drama in your own personal life.” “Hadley. “I—I had to talk about it with someone. but I had to tell someone." David said.” Jack raised his eyebrows.” . And so I did."So. because the way things are going.” Jack glanced at me. Ben and I are fine.” “Then talk about it with me.” David crossed his arms and shook his head. I’m fine.” David said. I know what the deal is—” “He’s going to pretend to forget your name in front o f Jack? Someone he barely even knows? He’d rather have Jack think he doesn’t know you than have Jack possibly suspect that he might be friends with someone who is gay? Seriously?” “Hadley. I’m really sorry. Don’t you get that? I love him." Jack stated flatly. horrified. “Maybe you two should have this fight when you’re both not so emotional. well…” “No. hit him back. “And then next time he hits you.” I looked at him pleadingly. he's your boyfriend. it’s not going to end well." Jack said. "Yes. “He's being a douche bag. “Yeah. I don’t give a fuck.
“You fall asleep to the news?” “I like to think I can hear it when I’m sleeping. Okay. “What do you want?” “The news.” I took in a deep breath and nodded. “Just.” he said it tersely. I threw my head back. “Ugh. Jack looked at David and then at me. Okay?” I closed my eyes and waited to hear his voice. Jack was quiet next to me. “How you feeling?” he asked. try to stay out of it. I just think your boyfriend’s an asshole. I will. He left the room and . shut up.” David and I both yelled at him at the exact same time and in the exact same tone of voice. Sorry. I love you.” He flipped through the channels.” “Here. “Do you want the TV on?” “Yeah.” He closed the door softly behind him. “Feel better.” “You’re my best friend. “Yeah.“Oh." he exhaled. kissing my temple lightly. you know. "Right.” he said.” he said softly.” He looked at me. I saw him fighting a smile. “David.” “You are a psycho. “Fine. Why don’t you take your painkillers and try to fall asleep?” he asked.
“Violent demonstrations in Egypt?” “Yes. “Alright.” The tension in my knee had been so great.” Jack teased. . “You ever heard of lullabies? Or Planet Earth?” “Yes. “Disturbing. and I felt his lips brush the top of my head. I felt Jack’s hand in my hair.” he said. where they’d be easily to reach. I want you to stay.” I said." He kicked off his shoes and settled beside me and I drifted to sleep easily. that I didn’t truly begin to notice it until it had begun to dissipate. And then he set the crutches next to my bed. curling into the covers. just call me if you need anything. the word that broke our rules was easy to say: “Stay. "Yeah. kid.came back with a glass of water.” He hesitated. “This is what you fall asleep to?” he smiled. "Are you sure?" I nodded. “Hey?” I reached for his wrist. He helped me sit up and take the pills. He lay down next to me on the bed and we watched the headlines. But this is what I like. In the darkened room.
He blinked open his eyes and sat up suddenly. I reached for the crutches and the orange bottle of Percocet and choked another pill down.” I said.Chapter Twenty-three I woke up groggily and in pain again. My knee was a problem. leaning forward in the bed for my phone. Andrew’s new memo to staff writers on factchecking. "Nothing. An email from Dale Broussards confirming my interview on Thursday. Justin’s article. I scrolled through my texts—nothing important or interesting. CNN is really like a lullaby. which he was having trouble sourcing. “Hey." . I swore as I sat up. just a little sore. Jack stirred. We had been cuddling. "You're smiling like an idiot. "What?" Jack asked.” he murmured. He looked at me and then at the TV screen. “Shit.” I muttered. but it felt like a small problem compared to Jack sleeping over. “You okay?” “Yeah. as the morning headlines rolled across the screen. And then I swore again when I saw Jack curled next to me. And then I checked my email. It was hard not to be happy about that." I said. We were both fully clothed. I grinned broadly.
hearing the sound of him in the kitchen. slumped against my crutches. "Where you going?" "To brush my teeth.” He chuckled at me as I limped to the bathroom. "Neat.” Jack held out his hand for my phone. "Easy. springing out of bed. I looked in the mirror as I brushed my teeth.” “You can use mine." "Let me help you. I couldn’t believe I had sprained my knee." "Brush my teeth?" “I bet you don’t have an extra toothbrush. "Just the job I'm interviewing for. He scanned the email quickly and handed the phone back to me with a noncommittal nod of his head." I said. I yawned. "Let me see. When can I move in?” I gave him a look and got to my feet shakily. I’m excited.” I offered. He made a face. “Your mouth has had worse." I handed my phone over." I said." he said. reporting on massive upheaval and unrest. What was I going to tell the . I had an interview for a job in Syria."It’s nothing. given his aversion to them. "I was going to say it smells amazing. "David's cooking. tiger." I guess I should've known he wouldn't be too excited about jobs.
I couldn’t remember it. I smiled and took a bite. I nodded. but—” “Oh. And Jack and I had moved to sharing toothbrushes.” Jack said once he swallowed. who was working on a large mouthful of blueberry pancakes. the best. now I get why you don’t want to have sleepovers. laughing.” I looked over at Jack. I spat and washed out my mouth. “Just in time." David handed Jack a plate. "Just have to come up with a good story for the crutches.” I told David. I probably won’t get it. I mean. “Ah. Fabulous. “You’ll get it.” David said. I thought sarcastically. Jack came up behind me and kissed my neck. “Hey. please. surprising me. I crutched out to the kitchen where David was working seriously on blueberry pancakes. I have another interview with the Times. I ducked away from the kiss.” I said. Seriously. “So.” .” he said with a smile as I sat down. "Seriously? That's so amazing. “I don’t have a David and you don’t want to share his breakfast. “Okay.New York Times when they asked how I sprained my knee? Some boy made me weak in the knees? That I couldn’t handle a kiss? If I had ever felt less cut out for serious journalism. you’re the best.” He handed me a plate with two pancakes.
What's the job exactly?" "It's for a job that's split between New York and the Middle East.” “I had just jumped out of a plane. violent conflict. in the Middle East.” I said. “Oh. She fell. Maybe that’s why I don’t have you sleep over.” I said.” “So.David grinned. that must be tough.” David explained.” “Mm-hmm. "And I'd skipped breakfast.” “I am an army. how d i d that happen?” David asked. There are enough carbohydrates for an army here. “You don’t need to share. "I don't think I got the story last night." "That's perfect for you. “She makes the coffee. probably any major news . basically. He stared at his pancakes. He gave me a sharky look and I took a bite of pancakes. really. Responding to crises as needed. pressing a button.” Jack said. mainly. "So. wait. Jack said something about weak knees. “I kissed her. “What do you mean by crises?” “Like. “Hadley.” Jack replied. So. I'd say low blood sugar. He smiled." Jack nodded once. what do you contribute to this operation?” Jack asked." David smiled. But. rolling my eyes. tell me about the interview." “I told you.” I said. “You’re an asshole. “At least. When she’s not wounded.
” “You really want to do that?” “Well." He sipped his orange juice. but it all depends on what needs to be covered. It’s my dream job. I’d probably be focused in Syria.in the region.” I raised my eyebrows. have you thought about it?” “Sorry?” “I mean. I’d probably be in the Middle East by the time he figured it. And I'm an adult. . That’s all. have you—have you really thought about what working in a violent. But. I’ve thought about it.” “Why?” "Why?" he repeated. Though.” “I mean. With a notepad instead of a gun. My father would probably care. yeah.” David met my eyes.” I said. "Are you serious right now?" "My mother would absolutely kill me if I told her I was going to be a reporter in Middle Eastern conflict zones. “I bet they care. I’d have to get the job first and then he’d have to decide to check up on me or my mom. "Are your parents okay with that?" "Obviously. I doubt my parents care. misogynistic region of the world could be like on a day-to-day basis?” he asked. "Because you're their kid and you're talking about going into an actual war zone. “Will your parents care?” “Only if they notice.
They think I won’t get paid anything and that it’s a huge fucking waste of my time and energy. That’s all.” Jack shook his head. “Look. They don't want me to be any kind of journalist. “Oh. I still want to do it. they agree. And it doesn’t matter. if I end up doing it in the Middle East. “What you're trying to do is dangerous. Point taken. by the way. “So. I didn’t mean you shouldn’t be a journalist." I said. So. “They think it’s stupid. I haven't even interviewed yet. it’s low-paying. Something about . I watched the lines of his shoulder. The way he moved his fork.” “Well. it won't make any difference. just so you have a little background.” I snapped at Jack. you can relax. And my parents aren't going to notice because my parents are super self-absorbed.“How are they not going to notice that you're working in like. It’s a dying industry. “That’s not what I said. Afghanistan or Syria or whatever?" Jack asked. are two people who couldn’t stand to be on the same continent as one another. "And I have no idea what will happen if I do get the job. and nobody gives a shit.” he repeated stubbornly.” He took another bite of his blueberry pancakes. but on this.” “That’s not what I said.” He smiled. “These.” I exhaled." “Why don’t they want you to be a journalist?” Jack asked.
the tension diffused. But there were still so many unresolved things. “These are mine. The fact he slept over. glancing at my empty plate. The whole goddamned newspaper resting squarely on my shoulders. Or lust. He caught me looking at him and smiled. The way I just freaked out at him over my parents. .” he said. “You’re not getting any of my pancakes. David’s boyfriend.” I laughed and for a moment.that made me fall a little in love.
“I’m just wondering what would happen.Chapter Twenty-Four “What would happen?” I asked Andrew. I’d gone over my résumé two dozen times. He barely heard me clatter in on my crutches. And I’d researched my interviewer fanatically.” “I don’t know.” “I don’t need a break. Hey. sir.” I said. I’d practiced answers to every interview question I’d ever heard.” I chewed on my lip. Hadley.” he said wearily. I was pretty sure Andrew had had enough. “If we just didn’t put a paper out. “Thank you. I drove over to Jack’s after I’d wrapped up all of the final details for the next day’s issue. You’re getting good at that. reading.” He gave me a look.” he said with a grin. He had been none too impressed with my I-sprained-my-knee-while-skydiving story and he seemed further annoyed by my suggestion that Northwestern could survive a day without us. Added to the fact that I told him he needed to act as Editor-in-Chief when I left for New York for my interview. “Mmm. “If you need a break. “I’d rather not think about it. I can do it today.” I tried to curtsey on the crutches . He was lying on his bed. All that was left to do was to perform flawlessly in the interview.
balancing on one leg. “For the plane. “You sure?” “Positive. “I have something for you.” I rolled my eyes.” I smiled.” . “Mm. I nodded. And then he undressed himself. “I don’t look like…” “Sh…” he said. I’ve really gotten in my own way here. So you don’t look like a helpless Midwestern tourist. kissing him back. He nodded.” he murmured. He pushed a strand of hair behind my ear.” I rolled my eyes and pulled on the sweatshirt.” I chuckled as he kissed my neck even more gently than usual. He pulled my t-shirt over with it. “Yeah?” He tossed me a New York Knicks sweatshirt. “Maybe we should have put the sweatshirt on after we fucked. “I’m from California. “Can you do this?” he asked.” “Because I sort of like all of the stuff under the sweatshirt.and nearly wiped out. He shuffled me to the edge of the bed and pulled the sweatshirt over my head. “You might have a point. He kissed me deeply. gesturing at my knee.” I said.” “Helpless California girls and tourists from the Midwest are all the same to New Yorkers.
He smiled. “Good. Or maybe. barely allowing it to sway. but he was perfect. and he was so sweet and he was so gentle that it felt like even more than just good sex. if I let my guard down for half a second.” He was feather light with his touches. He cradled one knee in his arm. . a little bit more than even a crush. It started to feel a lot like a crush. It was difficult for me to move.
it’s like it hardly happened at all. zipped through Kennedy airport. The interview process had been grueling. And then I crutched down 8th Avenue. A single chaotic day that started at O’Hare airport and ended back there the same night.Chapter Twenty-Five I was just in New York for a single day. I wearily passed out leaning against the window. “Great. I felt a bit like that by the time I was handed off to an editorial assistant who walked me out of the labyrinthine office complex. six hours of rapid-fire questions. “We’ll call you. hailed a cab.” I replied. I couldn’t believe all of that had happened in the space of one day.” she told me. thank you. . I had taken a class once on the criminal justice system. The way we travel now makes everything go so fast. I’d learned how aggressive investigators would ask the same questions over and over so the suspect would start to forget what he had said and would start to question what he remembered. and got on a plane back to Chicago.
“I was not. “Never let go. what was I supposed to do?” “You weren’t on drugs.” he whispered in breathy imitation of me. Jack. I gave Jack a suspicious look. let’s hold hands. “And I’m buying you fucking dinner. “That’s against the rules.” I said. If you’re that worried about the rules. “Never let go. oh my god. “That was your fault.Chapter Twenty-Six “I feel like you’re not eating. we can go to .” “I’m not doing Kate Winslet.” he grinned. I laughed. I mean. But you were all like stay. I was drugged.” he whispered.” “I was ready to go.” “Jack. We were holed up in Jack’s room and I was not prepared to crash an all-male fraternity dinner. I’m doing Hadley Arrington.” “It was not like that.” he pointed out. never let go.” Half of the fraternity was over for a pledge class celebration. I need to take you out for dinner.” Jack said. flushing.” “It was like when the Titanic was sinking and the redhead was all like. and it was dinnertime. I’m so cold. “So.” “That is the worst imitation of Kate Winslet ever.” “You broke the sleepover rule.
I just.” He smiled. So.I don’t know. I was getting good at crutching.. Breaking rules.” “No. seriously. “I—I feel like you don’t believe me when I say I don’t know. when do you find out about the job?” “Oh.” I told him. I got into his car and put my feet up on the dashboard. I crutched.McDonalds. He laughed bitterly. He made a helpless noise. They don’t serve food. we don’t even have to call it dinner. We walked down the stairs.. “You said you loved that. He grinned at me.” “There you go again. I looked out the window. .. Hadley.” he shrugged.” “That’s the thing. he walked. Well. “Fair enough. “What?” I asked. I’m not asking to be a bitch.I don’t care about anything enough. You could be an instructor..” “What about skydiving?” I asked.” “Ugh—I’d rather have dinner. I don’t want to think about it. I just.” “With a Northwestern degree? “Who cares? Do what makes you happy. It’s all plastic products that happen to be edible. Jack still didn’t really know what he wanted to do. “What about you? You ever think about next year?” He laughed. “So. What about you?” I asked.
New apartment. I’m not looking for a reason.” “Really?” I looked at him.” I said.” I said. None of it every makes anyone happy. which was one of sheer annoyance.” “Point taken. Can we drop it?” “What are you going to do if you don’t find a job?” He shrugged.” “Okay. “But even if doing something won’t make you happy." . I flinched at the look. Look. It’s not that I can’t get a job. what’s the reason?” “Everyone's always looking for something else to make them happy. which is your life.” I closed my eyes briefly.” “That’s a great idea. I’m sorry I asked. He said I could be his research assistant. “You don’t even want to be my girlfriend. it could still be worth doing. You love your friends. “I’m not a pet project. You love to skydive. that was a bit harsh. that’s an idea. I looked at him while he drove. New dog. The looking just distracts the hell out of you from what’s actually going on. “Might stay in Chicago actually. Hadley. “Yeah. “So. Bobby’s working on a book. “You care about a lot of shit. And having worth…” “Hadley. New girlfriend.” “Well. “I don’t want to be anyone's girlfriend right now.” He shrugged.“You love to read.” he said shortly. He looked at me. New job. Why do you care if I have a job or not?” Well.
” He sighed. No matter how much time you spend with them or how much sex you have or anything. The point is that I don’t want anyone to be my boyfriend.” I took a deep breath. Or they get married and then divorced. We had reached a Mexican restaurant that I liked. You just talk about not having one an awful lot for someone who supposedly doesn’t give a shit. Everyone breaks up." He breathed. Or—and this is what really scares me—one person gives up everything they actually want for a few years of love and lust and they find out it wasn't worth it.” “Got it. “Christ. You can never really know what’s going on in someone else’s head. “And the point isn’t that I don’t want you to be my boyfriend. It was popular with almost everyone who ever ate there. Or they cheat. I just—this is a stupid conversation. Okay?” “I’m not ashamed of you. “I don’t think it usually works out. “Or they turn out to be a liar. And we’re supposed to be friends.” “I didn’t mean it like that. for emphasis. The quesadillas were . Nobody. Sorry I brought it up. But you don’t know.“Right.” he said. Or else they get married. “I don’t care if you don’t get a job.” I looked at him.” I added. Forget it.” “I don’t. You don’t know.
” That meant so much to me. Jack opened my door. “My mom keeps asking me a lot of the same questions. and mouthwateringly cheesy and the guacamole tasted like it was imported from Mount Olympus. buttery. “Sorry. I promise. And Xander thinks he should be on my case about it. I haven’t quite ranked everyone yet.” He smiled. you’re like…basically my best friend. “I don’t. And then. And you said you wanted to see me really drunk. Don’t worry.” “After David?” “Well. after him. sincerely. It’s been bugging me a bit.always piping hot. I have to drive. He smiled when he took my hand and helped me out. Plus. . “You’re basically my best friend too.” he said. I’m not going to fall asleep.” “Oh.” He laughed when I said that. I’ve always been a sucker for margaritas.” I grinned and ordered a second.” He dipped a chip into the guacamole and popped it in his mouth with a crunch.” “You better not. “As long as you stay conscious. you know. with the crutches. which was not just gentlemanly but actually necessary. I sat with my legs stretched out and Jack smiled at me when I knocked a whole margarita back in one long gulp. “But you’re up there.” We sat in a corner booth and ordered margaritas and guacamole. kid. “Bad girl.
Yes. Tell him we need a ride. in between the quesadillas and Jack’s joke about a set of triplets in Delta Delta Delta. “Put him on the phone. Jack gave you his phone? You guys are getting serious. I ended up really. “Who is this?” “Hadley Arrington. “Call Z.” . “Fuck. really drunk and laughing really. “Tell him it’s an emergency.” I said.” he said squinting at him. pointing a finger at me and squinting one eye. but I got drunk. Diamond?” he said. I don’t know. “Oh. Somewhere.” I said. And somehow so did Jack. huh?” “We need a ride. “Sup.” “Tell him to call one of the pledges.Maybe it was the sprained knee or the sleep debt or the interview.” I took his phone giggling and called Xander. tell him to come. really hard.” “Mergency. “Hey. “Is he too drunk to talk on the phone.” Xander said. “He’s too drunk to drive. I can hardly read this receipt.” Jack said. Maybe I just wanted to have fun.” “He said no.” “He said call…” “No. too?” “Um.” I said.” Jack repeated.
” “I procured the ride.” Xander said. “Are we there yet?” Jack demanded. “What the hell did you do to him?” “I gave him some margaritas. “We’re at Pedro’s.” When Xander called us to tell us to come outside. “Don’t make me come back there. buddy. “Yeah. We pulled up to the frat house and Jack jumped out of the car. “Got us a ride. “Why aren’t you more concerned about me?” “Because he’s giggling.” Jack giggled.” He laughed at whatever Xander said to him. I moved as fast as I could on crutches. “Come on.” Jack burst into laughter and grabbed the phone. “You two are irresponsible. “We called you.” “You didn’t procure shit.” . He kicked the back of Xander’s seat. I knew you’d say yes to her.” Xander scowled.” “Yeah. He pulled me out.” I said indignantly. you cripple. well.” Jack insisted. That’s my friend. “Where are you?” “Mexico.Xander sighed heavily.” He put away his phone and looked up at me. And Jack helped me into the front seat and jumped in the back. “Hey.” “I’m not giggling. but I got him to come to Mexico for us.” Xander said. See you in a few.
Sometimes. Or that I had tensed up next to him. in a long. He turned off all the lights and we went wild. I came before he did. I tried to catch my breath. And the shockwaves running through my body ran cold. I love you. he said very clearly and very possessively: “I love you. His hard muscles rippled under my hands as he came. Isn’t that what every girl wants to hear? From the guy she’s sleeping with on a casual basis. when you’re drunk. Too intoxicated to care about the clothes or the lights or what to do when he dipped his head like that. He didn’t seem to care that I hadn’t said anything back. it feels as good as it looks in the movies. Sometimes. Through the haze of the alcohol and the soft kisses and the intense high. you miss the best parts about sex. There was nothing but Jack. We got upstairs as fast as we could. I clung to his broad back for support. though.I laughed. Because she doesn’t have time for a relationship. breathing hard. “You got me drunk. Which is just the thing that she says to people because she’s actually so fucking terrified of getting her heart broken that she can’t imagine risking it. when you’re drunk. He cupped my face in his hands. not for a second.” he said. I breathed shallowly next to him as he curled me into his arms.” He collapsed next to me. . hard wave that blew black through my mind.
And after a long time. but I couldn’t relax. . I got up from the bed. and I couldn’t fall asleep.And he held me there. put on my clothes and left.
I barely have time for classes. exasperated. don’t freak out.” I said. “I just don’t want to let myself go like that. what's the problem? If he loves you. “We established the terms of the . I sat on the couch with David. Three little words I didn’t fully believe. I love you right now?” he said. That cannot be an excuse for not going after something that could be really good. And I didn’t call him either.” David said. I'm trying to make sure the paper stays in good shape. you're not your parents.” “Either way. A good reason. “Don’t freak out. “Hadley.” I took a breath." “Well. I shook my head.” “Why not?” He looked at me. “I can’t do this. what's so wrong about that? Why can't you go to class and love him?” “The problem is that he makes my head spin. And I'm trying to get this job. “Right.” “Do you love him?” David asked." “It’s not an excuse.” I nodded.Chapter Twenty-Seven He didn’t call me the next morning.” “Maybe he just meant it like—you know. “It doesn’t count if you say it during sex. It’s a reason. David.” “Right. paralyzed by three little words that scared me. “Right.
" “Why not?” “Because it could ruin things. I had no idea how to tell Jack I didn’t want anything to change. just. What was I supposed to say? Hey.” “Which is what you wanted. It probably didn’t mean anything. “He doesn’t want us to be exclusive anyways.” “So.” David said. tell him that. He was drunk. They have a formal next weekend. I asked this guy out. Anyways.. He was wearing Ben’s sweatshirt.. We made rules. He was mad Jack found out.” He shrugged. which was big and loose on his skinny frame. I don’t want them to change. I don’t know.relationship. “He’s fine.tell him to hook up with someone else for awhile.” “He should go alone if he’s not going to take you. can we talk about the fact that you said ‘I love you’ last night? It sounded stupid. “How’s Ben?” I asked. He might not even remember.” “He thinks people suspect. "I'm not telling him to hook up with someone else. David shrugged.” I made a face. I like things the way they are. “I don’t want to change the terms” “Then. But what if you want to change the terms? Would that really be the end of the world?” I sighed. If he's going to . Even in my head it sounded stupid. He’s going with some girl.
” “You should absolutely see other people if he wants to see other people. What are you doing?” “Dinner." I said enthusiastically. David nodded.” "Sam sounds great.” He got to his feet. but I was happy. “He is. “Fuck. movie. He sounded less than thrilled. “This is pretty stupid. but it can't hurt. He just…” His voice caught. huh? You’re upset because he said ‘I love you’ and I’m upset because Ben never will. He shrugged. “Who?’ He smiled." I squealed.” He laughed bitterly. Anyone who was actually out of the closet would be an improvement. If he’s not your boyfriend—” “ B e n is my boyfriend. that’s what you get." "I don't know about that.” He shrugged.” He pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes. sounding suddenly heartbroken. drinks. “Friend of Nigel’s. But I don’t want it to be just me always waiting around for him while he puts on this big show.see other people then so can I. “His name is Sam. “That’s what you get. I mean. The exact opposite. “Yeah." “Give it a chance.” I said. he doesn't let his guard down around anyone. Whenever you have expectations. shaking his head.” David said. I would rather be exclusive with Ben. “That’ll be fun.” He shrugged. “You want tea?” . "That will be great.
because he’s under so much pressure just seeing me.” “I just—I know he’ll break up with me. I don’t dress like I want to. But it’s hard. Yeah. But…” He shook his head. I know.” He smiled. All of my friends aside from you are just like. “Why is it so hard to talk . “I’m the first guy he’s ever been with for more than a night. “Yeah.” David said. “It’s not his hair.” I rubbed my chin. because my last haircut was too gay. Everything. I don’t ever make any plans. “Have you told him that?” “No. The pain on his face was unbearable.” “That’s his loss though. You deserve to see your friends and to wear your hair however you want to wear your hair.” He laughed.” “It is hard. Tell him all that. He put the kettle on. If he breaks up with you. composing himself. You deserve real.” I said softly. then good riddance. I got a new haircut. “I’m just pissed off. It’s your goddamned hair. “I want it to be real.” “Tell him that. You deserve those things. Your hair. What you just told me. David. I mean…I’ve done everything he’s asked. because the plans I’d make would be at places he’d never go to.” I admitted. He keeps telling me how big of a risk he’s taking. not even in the picture anymore.“Sure.
no classes.to people? Like. it will be glorious.” I smiled. you can text it. Just you and me. He smiled. Talking. I think we should do something fun.” I said. whatever. “Fuck talking.” “Let’s go into Chicago.” . that’s the main thing we do with each other.” David said. David. Make arrangements.” “Technology. “Think about it. No paper. And that’s like it never even happened. “Do you still want some fucking tea?” “I do want some fucking tea. Twitter. Like old times. “Let’s.” He laughed.” I said. We talk.” “Yes. Talking is hard. You can basically figure out what someone is doing and thinking without asking them now.” “I don’t think it’s that simple. “What do you want to do?” “Practically anything. And if you have a question.” He lifted his shoulders.” “Let’s go to the museum.” “I do. Let’s go into Chicago. “Well.” “This is a fabulous plan. “We ditch everything Friday.” He nodded. Facebook.
“And then we’re going to print them in small print on a foldout. I sat down with her to discuss it and was blown away. But walking still hurt.” I smiled. “So. when do you hear?” “By the end of the week.” she said.Chapter Twenty-Eight Juliet had done an incredible job on the proposal for the Valentine’s Day issue. Seriously. “Honestly.” “Okay.” I said. Soon.” “And when do you get off those stupid crutches?” “Ugh. this is unbelievable.” I said.” My knee felt fine when I just put my weight on it. “We’ll see.” I nodded. I don’t think my interview went that well. um. when do you hear about the Times?” I shrugged. “This sounds awesome. Juliet. “Another week or two. we have 450 admirer tweets. Which is going to be crazy.” “Thank you!” she smiled broadly. “I can’t wait.” . “So. “Right?” she smiled.” “The tweets?” “Yeah. I smiled. We’ll do them all from the Daily Social Twitter feed. looking at the layout and at the outreach she had already done. “Juliet.” I said. “So that people can read them in the paper too. which was just around the corner.” “But.
“Hey.” he said softly.” I took a sharp breath.” I chewed my lip. “No. I’m actually—that’s about everything. I picked up the phone. “I’m at…” “The newspaper. I can just go. I know. “Well. “Alright. “I’m sorry if…Saturday freaked you out.” “Thanks. absently watching the . it’s. “Jack..” I hadn’t been nervous to see him for weeks. “Can you hold on a second?” I asked Juliet. It was a phone call. It looks really. So.it’s really fine.” “Come over?” I took a breath.” “That’s fine. Jack. That’s—I really just want to talk to you. Let me know if you need help with anything.. really great. I mean. But I was nervous when I parked and when I opened the door. He was standing in the living room.” Juliet shuffled her papers together and closed the door to my office behind her.My phone buzzed on the table. I’ll be right there. I have like all of ten minutes.” “Can you talk?” Jack asked. “I just…I’d really like to see you. Can you get away for an hour?” “Why?” I asked cautiously.
” “Why?” I asked. my feet stretched out before me He gave me a wry grin.” he said quickly. “Jesus. I’m not going to say I don’t care about you. I don’t know. “Yeah.” But are you in love with me? “Could you say something?” he asked. “It just. He took a breath in.TV.” he smiled and nodded and I walked up with him to his room and sat down on the floor with my back to a wall. I’m not going to buy a ring or buy you flowers or force you to date me or issue an ultimatum. “I’m not going to propose. did you mean it?” He threw his head back. I don’t love you.” I smiled at that.” I swallowed. “I told you I love you. “A little bit. Is that what you want?” “Do you love me?” I asked cautiously. “You’re like my favorite person.” “You’re freaking out. “Hey.” “What?” “Tell me what to say. “Well.” Jack said. “Because I’m freaking out. . “If you want me to say I don’t love you.” “Why?” he asked.” I cringed.
I'll never say anything stupid again in my life. enormous sigh and he paired it with a toothy smile.” I said. I couldn’t help but feel like something had changed as I walked down the stairs.” I told him matterof-factly. "Okay. "I think it made me worry that you might want something I can't give you right now. I really have to go." He gave me a goofy grin and I smiled back at him. in a way that makes me afraid we'll screw something up and stop talking.” “I’m not going to walk away. for what it’s worth.“I’m freaking out because I think you’re going to walk away because I said something stupid. I just knew something was different. you know. A lot." He smiled.” “I have to go back to the paper. “Okay. Still. I swear to God. Like. "We won't. I don’t want to walk away. "I think it's easier than you think. I didn’t know if it was for the better of for the worse." "No. But. I shrugged. . I care about you." He nodded and kissed me. Okay?” He let out a loud. I hesitated at the door. “And. too." I nodded. I won’t walk away.
because he thought you were trying to break us up. I so did not let you do that. It was an extraordinary change. I knew he was bringing this girl.Chapter Twenty-Nine I came home to see David looking like David.” He shot me a bitchy glare. But a girl he slept with? And why does he even have to go? He could have made any excuse. He was wearing pants he liked and a tight t-shirt and staring at his reflection in the mirror. I practically stopped talking to you. “Hi.” he said flatly. I look totally average. I mean. I never expected him to ask me.” Well. “I’m sorry. But I was relieved that he had realized he deserved to be treated better. His voice shook as he explained. “Why did you let me do this to my hair? I smiled broadly.” I said softly. “Oh. let’s be real.” He took a breath and failed to maintain the campy air of total assurance. by the way. “I’m done.” He rearranged his hair. “Oh. “You look good.” “What?” “With Ben. I smiled at him. almost shocked. fussing with the haircut in the mirror. shut up. I sat down on the . And I genuinely was sorry to see him so upset. I didn’t think he would ask me. that explained so much.” “I’m done. Any. “I mean. But I did everything he asked.” I said. That girl he’s bringing to his semi-formal? He slept with her.
I know. but David and I were making enough noise to clear the place out. Fuck you. “OH WHOA WE’RE HALFWAY THERE! OH WHOA LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER! TAKE MY HAND AND WE’LL MAKE IT I SWEAR!” It was hard to tell who was screaming louder in the mostly deserted bar that Thursday evening.” He shook his head. Will you get drunk with me?” “Abso-fucking-lutely. Ben .” I said.” “I absolutely hate it.” “I’m not going to say that to you. You won’t care forever.” I murmured. “Yeah. “You can say it. He is the goddamn worst. “I would never live with an idiot. He exhaled.” He was already pouring the tequila shots.” “I know.” I smiled.” “Say what?” “That you told me so. When we both staggered out the door. I laced my fingers with his. “Oh my god. I’ll be better. I glanced at David and burst into laughter.” I smiled at him weakly.” “You’re not one. I raised an eyebrow. “You’ll be okay. “I hate that I care about him. This was going to get messy. “I just feel like an idiot.” David said. I hate him. “I absolutely fucking hate him.couch next to him and curled underneath his arm.
” “I never want to hear last night mentioned. I am fucking allergic.” The demon sun crawled through the blinds and declared war on my eyes and my head.” Jack smiled wryly at me.” I said. He grunted. I rolled over and crashed into Jack’s body. very drunk.” “And you said I was adorable. “What have you done with Hadley?” “I got her very.Mitchell. Drunk and happy.” “Stop.” I said. Right. I called him baby. “Come get me. “There are massive blanks in my memory. “I know. I reached into my bag and I called Jack. And I do not want them filled.” “Stop.” “Okay.” . “Call a cab?” He nodded. He laughed happily. I wouldn’t let that happen. “I think I died. Cab.” “I am never drinking again.” But I didn’t call a cab.” I sighed heavily. I shrugged.” “Now what?” he asked. “You threw up. Cease and desist. “Nah. Ever.” I croaked. “Right. please.
too.” I looked down at the glass of water he had given me and then I looked up into his kind face. “Fuck.” “No. you should not ever go to bars with David. I really couldn’t disagree. “You’re too nice to me. This is your fault. He rolled his eyes. “Clearly. “And then David accused me of killing you.” I made a face. though. but he was wasted.” He laughed. Also.” . I took a sip.” He kissed my cheek. “I’m not.” “I remember none of this.” “You looked kind of dead.” “I did not do the Macarena naked.” “Bastard. “I was nowhere near you. I peeled myself out of my bed and pressed my hand to my forehead. He handed it to me.” he said. That should be against the rules. I found you in this condition.” he said simply.” I said seriously. remembering tequila.” “That might not actually have happened.” “Stop. “I was very responsible when I didn’t expect anyone to be nice to me. I heard some stories about tequila.” “You are.He laughed and reached for a glass of water on the bedside table. “You did throw up.” “This was before you also took off your clothes and did the Macarena.
Jack stepped into the shower behind me. I smiled at him.” I said.” “You made me.“Advil. I’ll never let go. but then you’d freak out again.” “I don’t know anybody who’d give me their liver.” “Well. His laughter followed me down the hall and into the bathroom.” “I’d tell you that I would. But it had to be a good sign that he was joking about it. He pressed his hands against the tiles. where I turned on the shower and stepped under the water. “Jack!” he mimicked.” he said.” I kissed him and he gently eased me toward the wall. I was washing my hair when I heard the door open and close.” he mimicked. “Oh god.” “I don’t remember that. close to my .” he said softly. Do you? Jack.” “I don’t believe you. “And you slept over. He smiled when he felt the water. You need Advil. even though I totally believed him. Again.” We hadn’t talked further about the ‘I love you’ thing. coffee. “You don’t remember very much. “My voice does not sound like that.” I got out of bed. and a liver transplant.” “Never let go. “You would like it boiling.
” He laughed and the muffled vibration ran through me. “Jesus. so we were both sitting in the shower and he washed the shampoo out of my hair as I leaned my forehead against his shoulder. He dropped to his knees and kissed me lower. I grabbed his wet hair and bit my lip to keep from crying out as he skillfully took me higher and higher. My hipbone and my groin and then just a bit lower. He sat back on his heels. .” he said softly.” he whispered. and bit into my wrist when I came. oh my god. “Hey. I heard his hitching breath. “Oh my god. the pleasant gurgle of water running down the drain. girl. His tongue was soft and warm and when I felt it in me. I lifted my arm to my mouth.” I murmured when he was done. “Where’d you learn that?” “Took a seminar.head. his wet hair tickled my chin and the muscles in his shoulders rippled as he bent and kissed the flat ridge of my breast bone. and I nearly lost my balance. I took a breath and felt his mouth against my fluttering heart. his hands on my hips. the quiet roar of the shower. Jack. while he kissed my lips bitingly. I rose up onto my toes. He ducked his head and brushed his lips against my neck. He pulled me down. his tongue driving me crazy.
” he said. I don’t know where I came from either.” I said. what’s your deal with your dad?” “No deal.” he said softly. “I didn’t say that. “Five years ago. Old-school. really.” “Are you still close?” “He died. Heart attack. He was old.” He smiled. “So. That his father had died when he was a kid and he didn’t ever talk about it.” I took a breath in. the lot of them. I only knew the basics. He exhaled. I lay on my bed breathing deeply while he sat on the edge of my bed getting dressed.” He finished buttoning his soft flannel shirt and smiled. He was staring at a framed photograph of my father. . His mom and his older brother.” Jack cleared his throat.” “It’s okay. “What’s your family like?” I asked. “Really?” I asked.” “I’m sorry. I looked up at the ceiling. He dropped the aloof grin.” he joked.Afterwards. “My older brother idolized him. “Hm. “Yeah. “Soldiers and do-gooders.” I said. “Wasn’t around much for there to be a deal. "“My grandfather was an Admiral in the Navy.
” He smiled and picked up a picture of me and my mother. “Yeah. she’s beautiful. It mostly made me sad about how I felt like I hardly knew her. “It sucks. He had to grow up kind of quick. He was always trying to get me in line.” I nodded. deflecting the question. “Is this your mom?” I nodded.” “My mom worries.” he said.” He smiled.” “How’s it been for you? Knowing he’s over there?” I asked softly.” “You told me he was perfect.” he rubbed his chin. maybe. “Alex is perfect. He exhaled heavily. I didn’t know why I kept that picture on my dresser. “Yeah. . Just that Alex is so much like him.“He’d be really proud of Alex. she is. “I didn’t really mean it like that. pushing a little bit.” “She looks just like you.” I said. “It sucks like you wouldn’t believe. right?” I asked.” “Mm.” “Yeah. “But doctors usually stay pretty safe. “It must be hard for you knowing he’s in Afghanistan.” “Not really.” he smiled. Your smile is different.” “I’m sure he’d be really proud of you too. I’d heard that so many times. remembering our first conversation in the car. “Just like you.” he said. “God.
“Not with anyone.” He set the photograph back down on the dresser and then climbed onto the bed.” He let out a low whistle.” he kissed my forehead.” “Yeah. and there was someone else living there. after I put up a fight. “Yeah.” “Why not?” “She never lets her guard down. “Remarried?” “Oh. but my mom’s on her sixth husband. “No. Both of them. “More than I probably should have.” “How?” He shook his head studying it. Divorced?” I nodded.” I laughed.” He raised an eyebrow. “Did you say sixth . “So. Are you close?” I shook my head. “I let my guard down with you. My dad’s single again. “Well. Not even with me. “She didn’t even tell me she had moved. I shook my head.though. that explains a lot. you have no deal with your dad. And I went to my house. And your mom doesn’t let her guard down. “I don’t know… when you really smile? It’s warmer. I went home for Christmas.” “Seriously?” I laughed. Or that she had gotten remarried. more times than I’d care to count.” I said.” I looked at him.
right?” “Yeah. Senior year.” “I didn’t know you lived with him. Being alone was easier than letting people get too close. “I got in a few fights freshman year. I’m not angry anymore. “I was a handful in junior high and high school. I feel like you know something about that.” I said.husband?” “I said sixth husband. “Nah. I told you that.” “Anyways.” He nodded.” he said. He kicked my ass.” He cocked his head. . the third time it happened she sent me up here to live with Bobby.” I looked at the mix of vulnerability and regret on his face. “Some.” I said softly. “Yeah.” “So you fought people?” He nodded. Which helped. Just an angry kid. “Are you close to your mother?” He shrugged. I just think I missed my dad a lot.” “Really?” “That’s how I met Xander. I rolled my eyes and he laughed at me. “Did you get less angry?” He smiled. Got kicked out of a couple schools. Being angry was easier than being hurt. I’d have never gotten into Northwestern if he didn’t teach here. “When you lose someone important.” “Yeah. not everything makes sense. Maybe I never actually was angry.
“Where are you going?” “Gimme a sec. good man.” he said. “He broke up with Ben. He rolled onto his back.” He got up. “Oh. handing it to me. Anyways. “In two weeks.” He smiled.“Because of your parents?” I shrugged. “That’s really good.” I said through a yawn.” I breathed.” “Yeah.” He came back with a Gatorade. And he’s always been there. Alex is on leave and my mom and Bobby will come. kicking the door shut behind him. “David’s a good kid.” . “But then I met David. “But I kind of want to this year. “We have our parents' weekend semi-formal. I’m so hung-over.” I bit my lip. They were always making promises they could never keep.” Jack said decisively.” “That’s good. you are a good. “Wait until you hear my demands. I could never really count on them.” I raised an eyebrow. He smiled.” he cleared his throat. I’ve never gone before. I thought we could go together.” I stretched my back “God.” he confessed. “Only if you want.” He shrugged. “I’m relieved. “I don’t know.
“Of course. “Never met a rule I couldn’t break. “At least you deliver Gatorade. “You realize I am a library virgin.” “Really?” “Yeah. “Good. Hadley Arrington.” I said. Jack Diamond.” I smiled. “I’m disappointed my shower performance was less impressive than sugar water delivery. “I was kind of worried you’d say no. “Yeah. this is the library. After we had breakfast on Sunday.” He chuckled. “You need to be quiet. right?” I opened the door. huh?” Jack said.” “Mm-hmm.” He got back under the covers and kissed my damp hair.” I said. but I couldn’t get enough of him.” “Thank you for that valuable bit of information.” Jack said. by the invitation to meet his family.” He grinned. “So. as we approached the building so I could work on a paper for my Arabic class. I have to say. It’s like so against the rules it’s not even funny. Maybe it was the hangover.I was startled. I will treasure it all my life. you’ve demonstrated a deplorable lack of respect for all of my rules. “Well. “Definitely.” .” I said. we scarcely had a moment that wasn’t spent together.” He nodded. really. more than to his formal.
clearly having no intention of doing anything productive. you said you were going to the library. And half-a-dozen heads whipped around to look at us. with the Arabic stuff.” I whispered. Jack. “What now?” he asked in an exaggerated whisper. He smiled and waved.” He said this last sentence as we stepped into the eerily quiet library. as I started up my computer and got out my notebook and Arabic textbook.I rolled my eyes. “It’s like a cave. don’t you?” “Go to the library?” “Yes. I gripped his forearm tightly. He glanced around. “Actually. I go to the library a lot. He followed me to the second floor. He kept his backpack on.” “Yeah. He smiled as I sat down.” He announced loudly.” He laughed and sat down across from me. to one of the tables by the windows overlooking the lake. I looked up. He rolled his eyes at me. a tomb. “What do you mean?” “I mean. “You’re the real deal. “Did you actually bring any work to do?” “No. You really just want .” “Shut up. huh?” Jack asked. And that means the only place I could possibly have sex with anyone is in the library. “You do this a lot.
“I mean. I shrugged. “And it just seemed like the older I got the more I realized how many terrible things had happened that nobody had bothered to notice until the destruction was basically complete.” “Why?” he asked. Why war journalism?” he asked.” I said.” I said. “I think it started with Nancy Drew.” He smiled. “Then. “No. what made you want to do that? Did you see a movie? Read a book? Have a friend?” I rubbed my chin and thought back to the moment I first realized it. “Um.” “What?” “You’re the most deliberate person I know. He smiled.” I rubbed my chin. “Not good enough. this is Nancy Drew: Mysteries of the Middle East. “Okay.” He smiled. “Yeah.” I laughed. and…my parents . “She was a detective. So.” I paused. “It’s so easy to focus on our own lives. I guess so. but it’s kind of similar work. I read another book. and it’s so terrible. about the holocaust. Number the Stars.to be a war correspondent?” I nodded. “It’s just what I want to do.” He nodded. You ask a lot of questions and figure out who’s lying and who’s telling the truth and all that jazz. you know.
” “I won’t. but my mom just kept looking for someone else for herself. maybe you’ll come around on the dating thing.” I focused on not blushing. I rolled my eyes. I am serious that I just want to . if I was doing this kind of work.focused on their own lives. writing about what was going on so that people couldn’t ignore it. He chuckled. And I thought. He shrugged. you know.” He smiled. Not my style. “So.” He grinned.” “I’m not mad.” I flushed. important work.” I shrugged. And right now. “I didn’t say it was profound. it is kind of.” I said.” he said. But. “I’m serious. slightly annoyed. He smiled.” “No. “Don’t get mad. “It would be enough to know I was doing good work. My dad made a lot of money. the place where people need to know what’s going on is mostly the Middle East. “You like what?” “I like that your reasons for being a journalist are totally naïve and idealistic. It didn’t make them any happier. then that would be enough. earnest speech. “What?” “I like that. Long.” I said. “And it’s good to know you’re not a complete cynic.
And I watched him go. although I didn’t know at all.get the job at the Times and focus on that. you know?” I nodded. And for a second. feeling him watching me. “You mind if I go?” I shook my head. “No. “No. .” I flipped the page of my book. He really was handsome. I don’t want there to be any confusion. I wondered if he had just realized that I wasn’t that popular or that pretty and that he really didn’t need to be sitting in the library with me. I watched the other girls watch him go. too. I know. “Sorry. seeming to reconsider for a moment. just…claustrophobic. Not if you want.” He nodded. And he was popular.” He paused.
I’m acting like I need a nap. “Seriously. who just wouldn’t stop calling him. trying to determine exactly what was keeping him transfixed. much to his chagrin.” I looked at the painting David was gazing at. He snorted. Remember?” “Whatever. “This is boring.” .” I said. because this is boring. “I can’t believe you’re going to a parents’ weekend formal. to help him get over Ben. “Oh.” I said. shut up. “I’m bored now. Look at the artwork.Chapter Thirty As we’d planned. I went with him. “Which I do.” he said. But. “How did a San Francisco heiress end up less cultured than a South Dakota farm boy?” “You were not a farm boy and I’m not an heiress. I’d been going along with David’s flurry of plans.” I yawned. in part. And I don’t live in San Francisco anymore.” “It is not a prom. “I’m not acting like a Neanderthal. all of which I knew were. David hadn’t called him back.” I said furiously. “Don’t worry. and I trusted that he wouldn’t.” I insisted. Stop acting like a Neanderthal. We’ll go buy your prom dress next. David and I wandered throughout the Chicago Institute of Art. whenever he said he needed to get offcampus.
“Yes. And shoes.” David said. “I need a rebound. “Well. “Much as I love you. We went to lunch afterwards. darling. And it might be the easier thing. “She makes everything more complicated. But it just seemed like I was asking for help. “What about Justin?” I raised my eyebrows. “You know who you should call?” “No.” I agreed. The logical thing to do would be to ask her.” I said.” I chewed my lip.“Are you going to get a corsage?” “Look.” He grumbled.” “I’d be nice to him. I am not letting you use Justin as your rebound.” “Don’t even think about it.” I raised my eyebrows.” “That may be true. I wouldn’t have to go shopping. . too. “But she is incredibly stylish. I just need to find a dress. that’s a shame.” He stopped in front of the Claude Monet wheatstacks and studied them.” he said.” “Your fabulous mother.” “Why not?” “He’s a freshman.
your boyfriend?” he asked.” “So. “I think that could be a really good idea.” “Okay then.” He rolled his eyes. as long as he knows that no matter what kind of benefits he gets. “Well.” “You have nothing to worry about. like. “Not technically. “Everything was no.” “What do you mean ‘no?’” “Just no. that’s fine. I made a face. is Jack. “I won’t ask you to help.” “So. “No.” David said.“Okay. are you going to call your mother or am I going to have to deal with the horror of shopping with you in addition to the horror of breaking up with my secret exboyfriend?” “I might call my mother. “That makes a lot of sense. fine.” He smiled. “You’re still friends with benefits?” “I guess. changing the subject. Hadley.” I said sarcastically. “What happened to Nigel’s friend? Sam?” David shrugged.” “Do not pursue him if you don’t like him.” I said.” he said.” David said.” .” “I don’t know if I like him yet. I’m still the best friend.
I didn’t register much of anything that he said. My dream job. if you’re so popular. so I ignored the call. we need to know fairly quickly. If that still sounds good. It had happened. “So. After that. Fucking. It was an unknown number. When it buzzed again. David gave me a look. What? “How are you?” “I’m…great. if you’ll let us know in the next three days if you can accept th—” . listen. Way.” No.” I coughed on air. “Hadley Arrington?” “Yeah. This intangible thing that I had worked and worked and worked for.My phone buzzed at the table.” I said idiotically. “Answer it. We’ll need you to start right after graduation and you’ll probably be based in Syria from day one. speaking. All I heard was the offer.” “Hello?” I said. because we’d like to start getting you up to speed while you wrap up schoolwork and everything. “So. we’re going to offer you the job.” “This is Dale Broussards from The New York Times. trying not to choke. with a little more attitude than I normally would have.
Got the job! A few of us are going to The Pub to celebrate.” I laughed again. then.” I said automatically.” When I hung up. . things can change.” “I seriously think he’s cute. I really couldn’t believe it. “Alright. We have to celebrate. I mean. He said I’d probably be in Syria.” I gave him a death glare and he just laughed. “You are not rebounding with Justin. He laughed. I reached for my phone and texted my mother. but—” He chuckled. Wanna come? I stared at the screen for a freakishly long period of time. “Tell Justin. He didn’t pick up the call and his voicemail had been full since the day I’d met him. Outside the restaurant. Pure glee. and I’ll get everyone else you care about to come. “Yeah. So I texted him. before I rolled my eyes and set it away. I looked at the huge smile on David’s face and laughed. “Girl.” I raised my eyebrows at David. And then I called Jack. congrats. “You got it?” I nodded. I could only hope she’d be happy for me and that she wouldn’t say anything to my dad.“I accept.
“A toast to Hadley. with a winning smile. Where had he come from? . I clinked my glass against David’s and met his eyes.” I said.” Justin said. Justin. Justin and the rest of the newspaper crew had beaten us there. “David. “Congratulations.” I rolled my eyes at David and stepped away to check my phone. “I know Hadley promised you I’d introduce you to some people back in January. Jack still hadn’t written me back. David was my best friend. “Thank you. surprised that such a simple gesture would make me so emotional. what’s up?” he had a wide smile on his face. When I looked up. “It’s been too long. gathering everyone around and handing out beers.” David called.” David said.” he said. giving me a warm hug. Ben Mitchell was staggering towards David at the bar. Fuck. Annoying. “You’ll have to let me do that now. I could already tell it was going to be busy. I saw nothing but affection. “Hey. I swallowed thickly and smiled.When we pulled up to the bar. And he’d be so far away this time next year.” Justin lifted his head and looked at him.
“Faggots. He laughed and looked down at me. so I stepped over. raising his voice and calling loudly over my shoulder.” David mumbled.” I said softly. “Seriously. but even I didn’t think he’d be stupid enough to hit a girl in public. let’s go. Ben. “Look.” he spat in David’s general . “Yeah.” I repeated. “Hadley.” I said.” “Fuck off. you need a girl to defend you?” “Fuck off. “I don’t want him to cause a scene.” he murmured. but I didn’t expect to see a flash of fear across David’s face.” Ben said. Ben. insufficient buffer between David and Ben. Justin laughed at me. It was too late for that. “You two freaks. He laughed.” he slurred. this isn’t a gay bar. “Hey. I knew Ben had a dangerous side when he drank.David had his back to Ben. “Where? Why?” Justin asked. Ben was a jerk. David met his eyes. though. Ben was making his way over and I left David’s side to intercept him.” I said. and took a step in between them. I don’t think David wants to talk right now. “Like where?” David turned his head and his face darkened. “Maybe we should go somewhere else. “Where’s Diamond?” I realized I was the one.
ridiculously.” He pulled Justin by the hand and they left the bar. Mitchell.” I heard David tell him. you made him change everything about himself and you beat him up and you decided your reputation was more important than his feelings? What the fuck is wrong with you that you think that constitutes love?” “Nobody could know. stepping forward. When I was sure they were gone.direction.” he said. “You do realize.” Justin said forcefully. .” “Well. “It’s not worth getting arrested over. “He left me. “I don’t care what you think your reasons are. “You can’t treat someone like that and expect them to stick around for it. “Don’t bother. “Really? So. I seethed where I stood. I turned my attention back to Ben. “Hey.” “I love him.” I walked away from him. David caught his wrist. You have no right to come over here and call him a faggot.” I shook my head. “You need serious help. what did you expect?” I asked incredulously. that you are the only fucking person in this whole bar who has a problem with them?” Ben just looked at me glassy-eyed.” Ben slurred. ready to leave by myself since Jack obviously wasn’t coming in time.
I’d mostly kept my phone shut off. but my dad was persistent and he seemed to think I owed him not one but twenty-two conversations on that matter. He finally texted me Congrats. “Hey. my heart plunged a little bit deeper seeing that Jack hadn’t bothered to call me or text me. My mother had told him about the job. He largely wanted to persuade me from going to Syria. but he hadn’t wanted to see me for the past two days. Jack had started to freak me out a little bit.” I said.” I smiled at David. and I started wondering if he was regretting asking me to his formal this weekend.Chapter Thirty-One David and Justin hit it off right away. which was ridiculous. Three days later. So obviously he wanted to talk about it.” David called when I walked in. chica. They were making lobster risotto. it would be amazing. they were seemingly inseparable. but knowing David. It didn’t help that he chose to go missing the week that my father started calling me religiously. trying to avoid his unwanted calls. and every time I checked it. I was glad to see them both. . There was no chance of that working.” “I am tired. “Sit down and have some bruschetta. “You look tired.
You don’t need this thing torturing you.” David promised. “Give her some scallions to chop or something.” I rolled my eyes at David. holding out his hand. going to my voicemail box and deleting them without giving them a chance. “How many times did your father call today?” “Seven.” “Ah. followed by long interludes of complete silence. by next week. I handed him the phone. “What?” “Go over there. he will only call six times. “Seems like a good strategy to me. you won’t hear from him at all. At this rate. I’m seeing a downwards trend there.“It will solve almost all of your problems.” David said.” I said.” “Are we listening or deleting?” “We are deleting.” . That was very like my father—brief periods of intense attempts at discussion.” Justin smiled shyly at me as I stood next to him. He put it in the refrigerator.” David said. “How many voicemails?” “Three. He only lets me do this when I’m in the midst of a crisis.” He looked over at Justin. “Tomorrow. “I can’t believe he’s letting you cook with him. “Give me that.” “So you’re going to chill it?” David shrugged.
I don’t know if I trust her with the scallions. I felt like one of those stupid girls in a bad movie who had missed an obvious sign. And then he’d disappeared.” “Not in the kitchen. Justin.” David decided. He had invited me to meet his family. It made no sense.” David snapped. “Can I order pizza?” “Sure.“Actually. “You’re still my mentor. fantasizing about pizza. and about my bed. I fantasized about Jack calling me back and apologizing for putting me on edge. He nodded.” Justin made a face and handed me the scallions anyways. I retired to the couch when I’d finished with the scallions and sat watching reruns of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. if I was being really honest.” “This better be amazing.” David groused. if you don’t value your life.” I told him. “Oh.” I hummed in the shower.” I complained. “Do I have time to take a shower?” I asked. “Good call. but I . “How long does risotto take? I’m starved. He had invited me to his formal. “She can wash the tomatoes. you have time to take a half-hour bath if you want. And.
couldn’t figure out what the sign was. I turned on the lights and screeched when I saw a man sitting on my bed.” “Well.” “Shit. “And why wouldn’t you turn on the lights?” He smiled mischievously.” Jack said. I came out of the shower and ran a towel through my hair and walked into my room to get dressed. your dad’s in the living room. “Your roommate’s cooking dinner for his boyfriend.” I sighed.” I pulled on jeans and a sweater and walked out into the living room. I assumed you knew. “Well. “Which is—” “What?” I whirled to him. actually. I thought it would be sort of funny to scare you. catching my breath.” Jack added. walking out to . “Calm down.” I said. “Also.” “Where the hell have you been all week?” I asked. “How is that not the first thing you tell me?” He held up his hands. What the hell was my father doing here? “Dad. “It’s just—” “Jack. I didn’t want to intrude. “I’m sorry. This is not good. what’s going on?” I asked. “Would you give me a second? I need to get dressed. what the fuck?” He shrugged. I need to get dressed.
” he said. but I was his daughter. The speed limit was being completely melodramatic about safety. “Hadley.” I snapped. Your mother was worried. should be distinguished from all of the other women . “Well. at least. You look—” “Don’t call me darling. looking very nervous. I’d heard him call way too many girlfriends darling. there’s nothing to worry about. I. getting to his feet.” My father always assigns emotions to some third party whenever he does something that requires an explanation.the kitchen. I wasn’t sure what had become of most of them. “And I did return your phone call. because I got like so many voicemails asking the same question I’d already answered. The doctor was hysterical. let me buy you a nice dinner. “Darling. And I think I told you what I just said. and David was smiling bitchily at him while Justin was unnecessarily cleaning the counter. studying his Blackberry. He was sitting on the couch. why don’t we talk about that?” he said. It’s pretty cutand-dry. “Your mother has been worried.” “What’s this whole business with Syria? And why haven’t you returned our phone calls?” “This whole business with Syria is that I’m moving there because I have a job there. And it was weird.” I smiled. actually. “Well.
as I resigned myself to dinner.” David chuckled. . “And why doesn’t your boyfriend—what’s your name?” “I’m Jack. “Please. “I just —” “Your boyfriend Jack can come. shut up. refusing to take the hint. But. “Hads. “Look. “And we have already talked about it. We disagree. grabbed Justin’s wrist and pulled him out of our living room and into his bedroom. I stormed into my room. Hadley. then he probably wouldn’t object to taking the door off of its hinges.” He hesitated. “I’m not going to tell you what to do with your life. too. And if my father flew all the way here from London to see me.” he said in his I’m a serious international businessman voice. I thought nobly.” Jack volunteered. I could lock the door. I would really like to talk to you.” “He is not my boyfriend. “Syria is not up for discussion. The plan didn’t get much further than locking the door.” I said to him pleadingly. He just smirked.” I said when I emerged from my room.” “I can come. David had been through enough dysfunction for one semester.” Jack said boldly. I considered that for about five minutes while I got dressed.in his life. He smiled. He looked at me appealingly. why don’t you get dressed?” I turned and tried to burn Jack with my eyes.
“Relax. But I would like some wine. isn’t she?” my dad said to Jack. squished together. A table for three was arranged. “You better be ordering something strong.” Jack replied. With three of us. “Charming. Hadley. “I’m glad you think the disaster that is called my . obviously pleased with my discomfort. Please. “Completely. “Come on. which may have seemed sleek and luxurious when there was just one person in the back seat. “Don’t talk to me.” “No.” He laughed. As soon as the waitress handed us our menus and disappeared. Jack laughed.“You look pretty. in rumpled clothes and awkward silence.” “Shut up. Jack leaned in and whispered into my ear. Let’s get this over with.” He chuckled and Jack smiled. I’m not going to relax. it was decidedly inelegant.” I hissed. My dad had taken a chauffeured Lincoln car.” They both laughed. although I really do appreciate the suggestion. We arrived at the restaurant. “Swanky place.” Jack said sweetly. “What? Are you two idiots friends now?” I asked sourly. I met my father’s icy blue eyes.” Jack laughed.
” I said harshly. showing up unannounced and telling other people how to drink their wine and live their lives.” Jack said “Kids. “I am not a vegetarian. “Hadley. He called over the waitress and ordered wine.” “Well. And then. Let’s talk about this Syria nonsense.” I said.” I said.” I said. “Giving Jack a hard time for being a vegan. My father exhaled as the sommelier poured the wine.” “I am not a vegan. he ordered filet mignon for everyone at the table. “You should be something. I mean. You had a bad day. “Jack’s a vegetarian. “You’re really not supposed to drink it like that. more to Jack than to my father. what’s the point. “Excellent.life is funny.” “It’s really unappealing. thank you.” Jack said calmly.” I downed my glass in one gulp. Jack? You’re just so bored by absolutely everything in your existence that you don’t want to do anything?” “Let’s not get personal. My father looked at Jack like he had rabies. My father had always regarded the disaster that is called my life as a moderately amusing hobby that he took up again every few months. obnoxiously. you know. He took a sip.” my dad said. you should be a vegan.” .
I couldn’t tell what the emotion in his eyes was. A very good job. When I told him my family was kind of messed up. And there is no good reason that you should die for it in a place like Syria. I got a job. He probably was freaking out. It seemed like understanding. “You can be a reporter from practically anywhere in the world. Going outside in a thunderstorm isn’t safe. But sometimes you have to go across the goddamn street. Hadley.” “It’s what I want to do. I turned to look at him. I glanced at Jack. he probably never imagined he’d have to deal with the mess. it’s a dying field.” I snapped. who was watching my father closely. “It’s not safe.” I said. Practically my dream job. although I couldn’t tell if the person he understood was my father or me. “Driving a car isn’t safe.” “Lots of things aren’t safe. Crossing the street isn’t safe.” “It’s not smart.” “I’m not going to.” my dad said. So you ignore the fact that someone could hit you. look.“There is no nonsense.” “Those are not fair comparisons.” I said. though. I mean. I knew exactly what had . There’s no reason to go to Syria. “Do you know what happened to Lara Logan in Egypt?” Jack asked softly.” my dad said. “I want you to reconsider. And you carry on.
” my father repeated. He looked down at his food and looked back up to find me still staring. I reached blindly for my water. “I don’t think it’s any of your business. which I was making no effort to be civil at. I stared at Jack in shocked betrayal.” Neither of us corrected my dad. At dinner with my father. “She was surrounded by cameramen. The Times can’t protect you over there. “Exactly.” my father said. I don’t think you have any idea what you’re signing up for. “Seriously?” He shook his head. “Excuse me?” I said to Jack. She’s someone who travels with security. It’s that Jack said it.” He took a deep breath. . “I mean—Hadley. But that’s not what stunned me. “You getting hurt?” I met his eyes for a long time before he looked away. trying to explain why he’d just taken my father’s side. “Exactly. “Thank you.” Jack continued.” “No. Most people who followed the news knew that. stop looking at me like that.” “What?” he asked. who barely met my eyes. James.happened to Lara Logan in Egypt. She’d been sexually assaulted by a pack of rioting men in Tahir Square. I mean. she’s on TV .
You really think I’d count on you for anything at this point?” After that. He let out a short. I saw him recoil.” He exhaled. Or hurt. there wasn’t much left to say.” He pushed out his chair. “This is all just a game. shallow laugh. “You have no right to interrupt something you know nothing about and—” He nodded. He didn’t take anything seriously. “You know what? We’re not supposed to have dinner together. I couldn’t imagine why he’d be such an alarmist about Egypt. He paid . “Please. His bowed head. “I don’t condone this.” I said. And I saw it work. he was only trying to help. I forgot about that one. “He was trying to help you. I’m going to go. Or something.“After graduation? Why does it matter if I’m in Syria in six months? You’re not going to see me after that.” “I’m not asking you to. Right. I wondered if he thought it was funny.” He was walking out the door before I could register that he might be mad at me. This is all about the rules and—” “You have no right. or if he was serious. “That was a good rule.” I hissed. No strings.” He held his hands out helplessly. I watched his shoulders. “That’s not help. “Hadley.” my dad offered. And I won’t support it.” I spat it out exclusively for the purposes of hurting him. I got it. “Right.” I snapped.
And even though I’d been doing it for years. He went straight to the airport.for dinner and he dropped me back at my apartment. which had a lot more to do with scaring away Jack than it had to do with disappointing my father. I couldn’t totally suppress the twinge of guilt in my stomach. .
let me know by tomorrow and we’ll see if you can be assigned to that person” Valentine’s Day dawned bitterly cold. I wonder how much Jack talked to him. At the end of class. I remembered how he’d blindsided me and I set it back down. Which is to say that he didn’t call anyone ‘a fucking useless imbecile. Sometimes. And as much as I missed him. And Jack didn’t make an effort either. If you’re interested in someone in particular. wielding a . We learned about when keeping quiet was more important than speaking up. Jack and I didn’t speak for days after that. “Oh my god!” David screamed. I followed the high-pitched screech into the living room where David stood in his bunny slippers. Riley presided over class more quietly than he usually did. I wonder if he knew that we’d fought.’ We listened to him discuss hostage situations. like every day in February and like every Valentine’s Day before it. “We’ll be assigning you to your career profile of a deceased journalist on Monday. and stupid. I was angrier than I was sorry. Whenever I reached for my phone to apologize. I felt like his eyes were hovering on me a second longer than they were hovering on anyone else in the class. he cleared his throat.Chapter Thirty-Two Needless to say.
“I would guess so. Someone had sent him roses. Please call me.” I said.” “That’s exclusive to Christmas. Hadley. trying to close the door again. I miss you. I swung open the door and saw Ben standing in the hallway.” David snapped. . “Oh.” David said.” I said.” “I don’t have the stomach for romance. David looked at me. “Guess what day is today?” “The day the world vomited up pink and PDA?” I asked.” “Well. “Shit.” He reached for the card. “I am so not getting that. don’t be a Vrinch. There was a rap on the door. “You are not getting involved with him again. “Justin sent you flowers?” David nodded. Ben. I bit my lip. it’s not like—” He stopped suddenly when he read the note. “I mean.” “I know. “Haven’t heard from Jack in Three Days Day And Am Supposed to Be Meeting his Family on Friday Day?” “Don’t be such a Grinch. “What?” He exhaled.” “What?” I grabbed the card from him. Love. I’m not stupid. fuck no.heart-shaped crepe pan.
make sure he’s aware. Go to class.” “You need to leave.” David said in an even. low voice. “Ben. come in. I really will. He took a step back. I know better.” “David Michael McPhee. I’m going to shoot him.” “It’s not you I’m worried about. but I think it’s because I’m in love with you. “Hadley.” I said.” “I know. David caught my arms and pulled me kicking back to my room. I know I was horrible. “I promise. He walked to the door to see Ben.” “Hadley.” I left them quietly talking in David’s room. “Just.” “Trust me.“What?” David asked alarmed. I just need to corral her. I swallowed thickly. So. He is a homophobic psychopath. hesitating at the door.” I said to him. You have to trust me.” I took a deep breath. I didn’t want to . I know.” “It’ll be fine. I’m sorry. “I just wish you didn’t have to. But if he fucks with your head again.” David smiled at me.” “I’m not going to let him hurt me again.” he whispered. you know I can handle this.” “ Yo u cannot date him. It’s fine. “Ben?” “David. “Fine.
“Are you serious?” I asked. which was loose on him. He held it out to me with a wry little grin on his face. and stayed home to make sure David was okay. I texted David to make sure everything was okay. wishing I hadn’t been so mean to Jack at dinner. Two girls watched with interest across the table while I accepted the . He looked a little bashful. “Sh…” He said. not to the people counting on me. They’re fine. Jack Diamond was holding a single white rose.” We weren’t alone in the library. wishing I had his arms to collapse into.have to rely on trust to know David was safe. Someone cleared his throat and I glanced up. and his hair was pushed back off of his forehead. But I couldn’t do that—not to David. After class. How did things with Ben go? He wrote back immediately. “You’re supposed to be quiet in the library. I waited at the doorway for the longest time. like he couldn’t believe he was doing this either. He left. wondering what I’d lose if I just emailed my professors and said that I was sick. So I left. I wanted to just know. And I wanted Ben to just leave. I went to the library. He was wearing a red plaid shirt. stomach in knots.
“I thought. “Since we had started breaking the rules. “That maybe I should apologize.” I whispered.” “And. But I think we can look at fish together.” I don’t know if it was the warmth of his lips on my skin. satisfied.” “Well. I thought. or the way he smelled. For the thousandth time since I’d met him. “Yes. I looked at him.” I smiled in spite of myself. “A date? We’re just going to look at some fish. “Are we still on for Friday?” . I shouldn’t have jumped into that conversation with your dad either.” he whispered. I’m sorry. Even if it is Valentine’s Day. I loved white roses. Or maybe it was because just because I wanted. if we were really going to break the rules…” he leaned forward and kissed my cheek. leaning back. “I was a bitch at dinner. He sat down next to me and leaned over my notebook and spoke in my ear. now you’re getting awfully dramatic.” I said softly. he made me laugh. I suck.” he said very softly. “It’s a date. “You had a shit day and I made it worse.flower at an arm’s length.” And he made me laugh. “You maybe would come to the aquarium with me tonight? I know we said no dinners. “It’s okay.” he said.” I looked at him. or the fact that even thought I hated Valentine’s Day.
” He smiled. Alone. dusky world from my window. that I stopped to stare. “They say they might live forever. Jack stood behind me. where nobody was watching. “I do. The ancient giants pulsed like beating hearts.” I nodded. I shook my head. we kissed in front of the cool blue waters. “Can you imagine the things they’ve lived through?” I thought of crashing meteorites and quaking seas. Before the dolphins. his hand rested on my hip and he kissed my jaw. “No. He caught my hand in a darkened room before a shark tank. His body was warm.” Jack whispered in my ear. every hidden exhibition. He knew every single tank.He smiled. listening to the National. “I think you’ll like it. “Yes. I watched the flat. If you want to be. But it was before the jellyfish. And then this—being taken from the open water and placed in the middle of an ocean .” I leaned heavily against him. He took me through the crowded ones first.” Jack obviously had been.” Late that afternoon. “Some of them are hundreds of thousands of years old. we drove towards the aquarium. “Have you been before?” he asked.
“I think everyone knows when they’re being watched. “Yeah. “Always felt like I .of people.” “I used to go to the library and I’d read books. I didn’t remember him at school or the house we moved to after he died. Outside of where I grew up.” He paused. And I knew there was life after middle school. But.” He rubbed my shoulders. it was the only place that felt okay. “Do you think they know they’re being watched?” He smiled and nipped my ear.” He smiled. I remember him at aquariums. “I think it was the only place I let myself feel sad. “Anyways.” He smiled. I was pretending I was at the aquarium. I always felt kind of weird at school because of that. “When I was a kid.” He shrugged. He traveled a lot for work.” He laughed at me when I jumped back from the eels. I got sick of the fiction.” He glanced at me. “Pretend I was someone else for a while. So I read the newspapers. Everywhere else seemed awful. Like everyone was actually there. After a while. Because I knew it would never happen. “After he died. “Do you come here a lot?” “Not a lot. in the classroom or gym class.” I confessed. I’ve been before. “With my dad.” He nodded. I used to go to the aquarium in Connecticut. thinking about being in the classroom or gym class and I wasn’t there at all. He stood close to the tank and watched carefully.
I pulled away from his kiss. And on the Valentine’s Day that I would always remember as the day that we broke all the rules. I didn’t say anything and he chuckled to himself and didn’t bring it up as we walked upstairs. . I let a boy literally sweep me off my feet. Our foreheads touched. We drove home quickly. you’re my favorite disaster. “I could get used to this. just FYI. though.” He wasn’t wearing plaid today. I stepped forward until we were inches apart.” “You wouldn’t do that for me?” I asked. “As long as they don’t expect us to participate.had more in common with a bunch of fish than with people when I was a kid.” “That doesn’t make you a disaster. “We might be walking into a gay fiesta. at the same time as he lunged toward my door. I heard a scream and a shout. in mock indignation. “I’m a disaster.” he said. where he parked upstairs. I laughed and nodded.” He brushed his lips against mine and lifted me off the ground. “Did you hear that?” Jack asked.” He chuckled. He walked me from the car. “I’m a little bit of a disaster. “Your place?” he asked. Hadley.” I said as we reached the hallway.” he confessed. “That’s fine. Jack.” “Then. grabbing my arm. I paused and leaned against him.
but I didn’t. “David. Jack moved so quickly that Ben was grasping his bloodied nose. shuddering breaths that sounded like nothing but pain. or a cry for help. and took these ragged. without releasing his stranglehold on him. Hadley!” Jack barked and I moved away from the door as he pushed it open. on his knees. And David spluttered. and Ben kicked David harshly in the ribs. Jack pushed past me towards his bedroom and I followed close behind. David choked out a plea.” Jack yelled. Jack moved before I could scream. The way he cried out sounded horrible. deeply painful. His eyes were wet and he was desperate for air. “David. “Do you know who is in there?” “David! That sounded like David!” “Get back. his hands on Ben’s trying to tear them away. with his back against the wall in the time it took me to reach David. . and choked and fell from his knees to his stomach. Ben’s hands were locked around David’s neck. I pressed my hands to my mouth uselessly and stared. I wanted to run to him. David was bloodied and bruised. are you alright?” He shoved the door open and moved ahead of me. The banging was coming from David’s room. barely struggling against Ben.He pushed me away from the door.
but he curled away from me. “Hads?” David whispered. come on. dejectedly against the wall.” I whispered through tears.” I turned him over.” he whispered hoarsely. Mitchell. “David. Ben struggled against Jack and Jack hit him again and he slumped.” Jack said. “If you touch him again I will fucking bury you. “We’re here.” As soon as Jack released him. “Go away. “Get the fuck out. please.” David said softly.” “No. not listening to David and grabbing his phone.” Jack said. “No.” David whimpered. I tried to help David up. as the door slammed. “Stop.” he said. “I’m here. “Go away.” “Hadley. “He needs ice.” Ben shouted. Ben fled.” Jack roared. baby. “David.” I said. underneath my shaking. “He’s in shock. useless hands.His broken figure lay on the floor.” I heard Jack on his cell phone walking down to the .” “I’m calling the police. “Get the fuck off of me. “Do you understand me?” He slammed Ben’s body against the wall so hard that the picture frames rattled. His eyes were open and he was breathing shallowly. Hadley…I’m fine.
He pulled David’s hands away from his face so he could see his eyes. the capable one. a look of capable concern on his face. but couldn’t.” David said in a broken voice. “An assault. but he’s injured. I think it was gratitude. “Are you drunk?” Jack asked him seriously. ignoring David. The victim’s name is David McPhee. “No. Yes. . He put him on the couch. I put a hand on David’s back and he pushed me away. He handed me a bag of ice and paced before us. ma’am—his name is Ben Mitchell. He’s a student at Northwestern. “You’re okay.” he told David softly when the sirens grew louder.” Jack’s voice didn’t waver as David started to cry. “He needs medical attention.” When he hung up the phone. The athletic department should have his address and photograph on file.” “Did he hit you in the head?” David nodded. he’s alert.kitchen.” Jack said calmly. David shook his head. “Thank you. Jack walked over and picked David up. please. I watched him and my lungs and chest filled with something. That was something that I wished I could do. Apartment 2D. air and something else. We will. No. steadied him.” “Hadley. “2333 McBride Street. Jack was the strong one. “I’m calling to report a crime.” Jack said deliberately into the phone.
” he said calmly. “Was this the first time it happened?” one of the officer asked. The officers came before long. He spoke more forcefully about things that I hadn’t known about. Really. He knew if they found out who he was. “No.” The police officer made a clucking noise with his tongue against the top of his mouth. He spoke about harassing phone calls and controlling behavior. David shook his head. it had actually gotten better. really awful. Jack looked at David. “My ex-boyfriend assaulted me. And then he slumped against me and I held his body against mine and pressed my lips to his forehead. But then it got worse. And then. I couldn’t breathe.” he whispered. “He’ll tell you.” David said simply. “I thought he was going to kill me this time. “What happened?” one of them asked Jack.” David said softly. The little comfort I offered made him whimper. confidently. who heard the word ‘fag’ in church and tried to hide all of the truest parts of his soul. When they sat down. The police wrote down his name and pulled Jack . “Okay. What’s his name?” “Ben Mitchell. all I could see was the boy from South Dakota. Their footsteps made him flinch.David flinched. like everyone promised. they’d kill him. Saying it aloud changed him.
I will.” David told me. But. I reminded myself.” “Tell him not to worry for a second about that. But he will tomorrow. “Call me as soon as he wants to see me.aside. okay?” “Okay. “Let me know when he’s ready for visitors and I’ll be the first one there. far enough so that he couldn’t hear me calling Justin. but close enough for me to keep an eye on him while the paramedics checked his eyes and the marks on his neck. Yeah. “Let me call him. He definitely wouldn’t want to talk to Justin right now. He wanted you to know that he wasn’t blowing you off. don’t you think?” He nodded. Justin picked up the phone and his brief panic settled into deliberate calm when I told him they were taking David to the hospital. David is fine. He’s hurt. who was still basically incoherent.” “I don’t want him to see me like this. “He’ll be okay.” I laced my fingers through his. wishing I could be so calm. “I was supposed to see Justin. . “Yeah.” I nodded. “Not now. who had held himself together to ask him more questions. Okay. Can he talk?” I looked at David.” Justin said. No.” I stepped away. “He’d want to be here. But he’s fine.” Justin said. he should at least know.
” “I’m sorry. and after a moment. “Yeah. On the day after Valentine’s Day. checking the cover. a simple gesture. and me into David’s small hospital room by flirting shamelessly with a nurse. He wrapped an arm around my shoulders. Four months old.” David laughed hollowly.” We turned on You’ve Got Mail.” Justin said. and he held me. “I’m going to wage a very effective letter-writing campaign. He sat down on David’s bed.” . Jack snuck popcorn.” I said. this magazine is ancient. I saw him lean forward and kiss David’s forehead and whisper: “I’m going to murder him. Jack and I watched part of the movie. “I’m tired of all the death threats. “Hadley’s boyfriend could charm his way into Fort Knox.” Jack said. “These people are divorced now. He settled down next to David. “God. Justin Shelter. and then decided to give Justin and David their privacy. walking out into the waiting room to sit on cheap plastic chairs and thumb through old magazines I thumbed through a wedding issue for a reality star. Jack Daniels. he took one look at me and walked over. and I leaned against him.” Justin told David.” “It’s newer than you’d think.When Jack came back into the room.
they better have paused it. Down with capitalism and all that. Justin shouldn’t take advantage of David. not Law & Order.” Jack raised his eyebrows.” He looked over his shoulder at Justin’s hospital room. I want to see the end of the movie. .” Jack insisted. I should definitely disturb them. “I want to see what happens to the bookstore. “No.” I offered. Plus.” Jack smiled at me. He’s highly medicated and I think I also got him drunk. “Well.“Seriously? Four months? They were married for four months?” He smiled. Occupy Fox Books. Or maybe it’ll turn out to be some kind of Madoff thing. “I think Meg Ryan is going to sue Tom Hanks or else kill him.” “Well. you can probably go. Because I bet anything that Meg Ryan ends up killing Tom Hanks. “They’re probably making out.” “It’s a romantic comedy. Occupy Wall Street.” I rolled my eyes and he kissed me suddenly. grinning. “Do you think I should go ask them to pause it?” “I don’t think you want to disturb them. “What was that for?” “I like you. but it could definitely be the plot of the movie. “You know.” “A book Ponzi scheme? That’s not possible.” he said.” I said.
” I said. living.” I nodded. I bit my thumbnail.” He smiled.” “We’re lifing?” “Or. “We can be like this. like he could hardly support his own legs. “Life. “I just want to be like this. tried not to blush. “Oh. “Even I didn’t skip that class.” “Okay.” I said. right?” David asked dryly.” He leaned his head against mine. “You still don’t want to date me. “Thank you for…knowing what to do. “You know I can walk. and focused on the hideous bridesmaids’ dresses. I didn’t say it. “Hey.” Justin brought David home from the hospital late that night. when Justin opened the door. come on. surely you went to the seminar on 911 in Kindergarten. Let’s pretend I never said that.” “You know what I mean. because then I would have exploded with embarrassment. “Right. David grinned at him .” He cocked his head like he was thinking about it. I like you too.I grinned. Justin had his arm tight around David’s shoulders. But I’m pretty sure he knew that anyways.” he said. What do you want to call it?” I rolled my eyes. you know. huh?” I was quiet. “Deal.
“And I should have listened to you. “But we’re back on.” .” David said. Hadley. I don’t care—” “No.” Justin added. David smiled weakly.” David said.” “What?” “You like him. “Okay.” I said fiercely. He smiled bravely. “Get over here. David. “Good. “I knew Jack was good to have around. He wrapped me in a tight hug.” I said. I’m glad you’re back together. Whatever that means.” David continued.” “Oh.” I said. “I’m so sorry. “Are you okay?” “Of course. It’s not your fault.” “We never were together. He’s a bastard.” He rolled his eyes. “Shut up. “Hey.briefly.” “He’s going to press charges. I should have listened to you.” David said to me.
“What do I need to know?” He laughed. “I’m nervous. “Hello? Earth to Jack.Chapter Thirty-Three My mother sent me a beautiful dress and a pair of shoes that would only make sense to wear to a ball for Jack’s formal. “Thank you. I didn’t recognize it. “Mom is Julie. I leaned against him slightly in the cold and he laughed as we reached the door. I didn’t think you’d want me explaining the details to my mother and Riley. really pretty. “Is there anything I need to know?” I asked. by the way. brother is Alex. I waved my hand in front of his face. He blinked again.” I said. “Riley’s coming. It fell just above my knee. “What?” “You look really goddamn pretty. The dress was light blue. “I told them you were my girlfriend. . with a white silk tie at the waist.” he said. “Sure. “You’re not going to recognize it.” he said.” “You look really.” He cocked his head.” He looked me over again. He blinked. You can call him…” “Professor?” He smiled.” He was right.” I told Jack when I got into his car. He smiled and drove to the frat house.” We walked from the car to the fraternity house.
“I’m in his combat journalism class.” I said and smiled. Riley looked out of place. “Say hi. “Ah.” Alex chuckled knowingly.” . looking at the expression on my face.The floors sparkled.” Jack whispered as we approached them. I swallowed nervously. “I’m Julie Diamond.” Jack said. you’re the girl my brother flew us out here to meet. the music was playing at a pleasant volume.” his mother said.” “And this is Alex. Alex shook my hand. “Do you know Robert Riley?” his mother asked. in a tweed jacket. “I’ll have to pretend I don’t know you on Monday. “So.” Riley nodded and gave me a friendly smile. and people were drinking from real glasses. “It’s like a game. She offered a hand.” Jack said. “We rented the glasses. actually.” “I don’t know about that. repeat. “Alex.” Jack said. shut up. It is so nice to meet you. get a glass of wine. “I do. All night.” “You must be Hadley. leaning against a wall and chatting with a pretty darkhaired woman who smiled just like Jack. turning.” I said.
I appreciate it.” “Christ. Figure out where we’re supposed to sit.” He grabbed two glasses. “I don’t want them to get the idea that I’m some kind of responsible and mature adult.” I smiled. “Am I doing that badly?” I asked.I grinned. It clearly bothered him. I nodded.” He smiled. “He put me in touch with the editor actually. He took a long sip of the wine and whistled. He looked over at Riley. “Ah. “No.” “We’re going to get wine. “Yeah. “Yeah.” He cleared his throat. My mom’s been dying to come to one and…anyways. “I promised her there would be wine. I just can tell they’re kind of salivating that I seem to have a girlfriend. “Wow. “Nothing.” “Does Riley know you’re going to Syria?” he asked.” I followed him.” . “Thanks for doing this. “I’m used to that. “What?” I nodded.” I nodded.” I said.” Jack said. “I need to find Xander.” Jack said.” “What?” I asked. He took a sip of his wine. Jack stopped lifting the glass to his lips. He laughed.
with a goofy smile. and sipped my wine slowly." He looked drunk. “We met at a tailgate.” I said. Alex smiled at Jack and then at me. right?" I asked Alex." I interrupted. wondering how long he'd be. who he'd neglected in a corner.” she nodded and smiled. “Oh. I smiled awkwardly." Jack nodded. I'd finished half my glass before I gave up waiting and went back over to his brother and mother. actual—” Jack started. "Better than the Naval Academy. how'd you two meet?" Alex asked. “Where’s Jack?” “He went to go find Xander." Jack said.I watched him go." Jack wandered back. huh?” "None." I nodded. blushing preemptively. "Hey. "How did you like medical school?" He smiled." He chuckled. "Oh. "Right. Were you talking to her? . "So. “You had no idea what you were getting into. "Where's Riley?" "Getting a drink. I liked it. Sorry. you're a doctor. "It's a really good story. I think." Jack said. "So. "I am. confused. "No.
" Alex smiled. “You’re one of Bob’s students?” “Yes. I've been told dinner is ready so if you'd make your way to your tables.” “So. "Everyone. pulling out my chair. Alex laughed. I am." he said. Xander." Jack said. however." "We're table thirteen. “So. She's crazier than she looks. "Jack's father was a journalist. I’m allowed to give you a hard time. thanks for coming. "I didn't .Trust me." Alex said. come on. Hadley. that would be great." I found that shocking. rapped his fork against a glass to make an announcement.” "I'll tell Bobby. then. Terrible luck. "Which is appropriate. "Okay. I'm great. I looked at Jack. “Oh. “Lay off.” Julie cleared her throat and peered at me. "You okay?" "Yeah. We found our table and I whispered in Jack's ear.” I said." Jack started to say something else. how do you feel about Jack not having a job?” Alex asked. "Why wouldn't I be?" “Nothing. you’re interested in journalism?” I nodded. I’ve been in Afghanistan.” Jack said.
"What paper did he write for?" I asked. they just did a Valentine's Day issue for the university paper." I said. I would've agreed. "New York Times. Hadley almost had a heart attack over it. Mom. He looked quite serious. What did you think?" "Gimmicky." "You didn't tell her?" his mother asked. "That's where I’m working next year. Jack grinned. "Anyways. Jack was watching his mother. I was mystified." I said. Alex.” ." Alex answered. Jack cleared his throat. How could he not mention that to a girl obsessed with working at The New York Times? "What are you interested in covering?" Alex asked me." Riley said. Leave her alone. He smiled at her regretfully. "Yeah. He rubbed his chin and said softly. I reached for my wine and swirled it." "I saw that." Julie looked at me and then at Jack. "They said I would probably be based in Syria at first. I looked at Jack.know that. Jack exhaled heavily. genuinely shocked." I smiled.” "I'm going to be working with their Middle Eastern conflict team. "C'mon. "Come on. if I hadn't been thinking about Jack's father.
and people here can help. “I think it’s important to show what’s happening. I cleared my throat. but they get it. "Am I missing something here? I’m not kidding about anything. I cocked my head. "Mom." I said." I shrugged.” "It's fine. Let her be. They can’t help if they don’t know about what’s going on. Her eyes were the same color as Jack's and contained the same edge of loss Jack’s sometimes held. “Syria?” Julie asked. "Aren't you a trauma surgeon in Afghanistan?" I asked. and I glanced at her briefly before looking away."Are you kidding?" Alex asked aggressively. I don't have an angle. for Christ's sake. are you serious?” “Are you talking to me or Jack?" I asked. “What do your parents think about that?” Jack made a strangled noise in the back of his throat. But if they know. "I speak Arabic. they can help. her voice straining. Journalism is about telling the truth.” Jack studied his water glass like it was the world’s most fascinating object. "It's different. Julie watched me. It’s what I want to do. “Jack.” . "They're not thrilled." Jack said." "Alex.” "Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?" Alex asked. "Would you please drop it?" I shrugged.
” “You don’t really know. fuck you. In case you forgot. come on.” Alex said." Jack pushed back his chair and got to his feet.” Jack said angrily.” Alex responded. "If you want to help. “It does affect me.I met Professor Riley’s eyes and he nodded subtly at me. gruffly. I was the one picking up what was left of you. grabbing Jack by the upper arm. How could you know?” “Lay off. you should enlist. but didn’t chime in. you didn't take it too well.” “Sure.” Jack snapped. “Well.” Jack snapped. "Let's go for a walk.” Alex said to me. The last time someone you loved got killed taking pictures in the Middle East." He shoved him gently towards the door and Jack . "It doesn't affect you. gently. but Professor Riley beat me to it.” Riley said calmly." Riley said. “But she knows. He tugged him once. it’s my concern. Alex.” Alex said. it’s not your concern. “Don’t tell my girlfriend to enlist. “If you care about her." Alex turned and looked at Jack. “Why not? She’d be safer in the army as she’d be in a Jeep with a bunch of cameramen. as several of the other families whipped their heads around to see. Jack or Alex.” I moved to get to my feet. I wasn't sure who to argue with. “Riley can tell you how dangerous it is. “You have no idea. “Yeah? Well. "Jack.
"I'm sorry. fists clenched." I nodded. "They've always been like this. "You—” “I need the restroom." I said. and they don't know how to say so. you shouldn't antagonize him. "I wasn't. The idiot wasn’t wearing a coat over his blazer. He was far enough away from the windows to not realize I could see him. I felt things shifting into place. when there was nothing left but ice in my glass and I had to confront the fact that I had somehow ruined the first family dinner they'd had in a while." She smiled.turned. And that something terrible had happened to Jack’s father. “I’m sorry thought. "Alex. so they fight. Jack had walked outside with Riley. and he'd turned his head to look up at the stars. resting his elbows on his knees. shoulders up by his elbows. She smiled and shook her head. I looked out the window." Julie said. I watched him shiver—from the cold or maybe the . He sat down on the steps. Alex exhaled in his seat. leaving me alone with his mother." she added." Julie sighed heavily.” Alex said brusquely. I sipped my water. But I saw him. "They love each other. just so I'd have something to do with my hands which were shaking. stalking off in the opposite direction. But he walked with Riley. I…” "It's not your fault.
Riley stood a few feet behind him. but he never showed me. Jack nodded occasionally and smiled sadly once. “Would you excuse me?” I said. not wanting to intervene. I swallowed hard and took his coat from the back of the desk chair. My face shaded lightly with pencil. my head turned away from him. talking quietly. I stood uncomfortably. um. He had been drawn me. He had to have a coat if he was going to sit out there. His shoulders were slumped. His sketchbook was thrown open on his desk. I put my fingertips on the page and felt tears brim behind my eyes. awkwardly broken. He pulled it closer. thought you might want a coat. Nobody is—” “Hey. in the passenger’s seat of his car. I walked to the steps and draped it over his shoulders. “…Alex is dealing with a lot right now. I got up from the table and walked upstairs to Jack’s room. One leg up on the dashboard.argument. He needed a coat. and hurried down the stairs with it. and not wanting to go. I walked outside. the one he was always doodling in. I looked at Julie.” I sat down next to him.” I said loudly so that they would know I was there. wavering. “I. “Thanks. . He’s not the same kid who left for war.” Jack looked at me and didn’t say anything. I'd never heard Riley's voice sound so gentle.
"But I'm not. "He went to Afghanistan." I nodded inside. "Alex. “She doesn't bite. "You'll be okay?" He nodded at the door.” Jack said." He smiled and looked over at me." He shook his head."You'll ruin your dress. He pulled a flask from his front pocket and took a sip." "I'm sorry. "About?" "That. My mom begged him not to. He took a sharp breath. Your Dad. "And then he died." he warned. "Yeah. when we just had gone to war. “My dad was a war correspondent." he nodded. “Should we talk?” I asked. He told her he’d be fine." I took a small sip." he said. watching Riley go. He blew on his hands and turned his head. “I know. "I don't care. I didn't say anything." I whispered." “It's a long story. He took another sip from the flask and offered it to me. Right after 9/11. like he was thinking of going in." He looked up at the . It burned my throat. The shiver that went down my spine felt like ice.” He bit his lip." He shrugged. "I'm good at long stories. “He loved it." Riley smiled. I handed it back to him. He cleared his throat.
Why didn't you say something?" “I didn’t know how to. “Jesus. And I've got just about none. Everything made sense. You've got a lot of rules. Jesus Christ.” I squeezed my eyes shut. “We never got the body back. Jack. I couldn't imagine any of it. Jack. but I didn't have to imagine Jack's pain. And you weren’t going to Syria until a week ago. But if I had to come up with one it would be: don't sleep with the pretty girl headed for Syria in six months." He shrugged. For a long time you were going to be a journalist. The Taliban.stars again. honestly. I could almost feel the tension of it beneath his skin. by the time I figured out you were applying for a job in Syria.” He breathed shortly and exhaled. “They cut him into pieces and put it on terrorist YouTube or whatever the fuck they call it." He shook his head. be damned sure you don't fall in love . And if you do sleep with her.” “What?” “To fall in love with someone who couldn't be worse for me. "They took him hostage. "I mean. I mean." I breathed. I was so far in over my head with you…” he took a breath and his voice trailed off. He took a sip from his flask. because there wasn't any way for him to hide it. I couldn't imagine. “God. My breath swirled in white clouds in front of my mouth. “This is just like me.” "Oh.
You didn't sign up for this. though. I don't want you to go. If you want to take off." I met his eyes. I stood up. “I am." He shook his head. "Talk to me. "You can't do this because I'm going to Syria?" I said. "That's okay." I said softly.with her. "C'mon. "Listen. “Jack…” "Look. "I just don't understand ." I said. Hadley. I'm going to go inside. "I’m telling you I can’t do this anymore." He put his hands into the pockets of his jacket. I'm not going to die in Syria. I'm in love with you." He nodded and looked down at his feet and then up at me." He rubbed the back of his neck and turned back towards the house. We'll figure it out." "My dad used to say that." I said.” He smiled again and shook his head.” I met his eyes. You're not into it. “You don't have to say anything." "Figure what out?" he demanded." "Okay. You said that from the beginning and you don't owe me anything." He laughed bitterly. take off. I’m fucked up." He got to his feet. “But. "You want me to go? You want me to leave the party you invited me to?" He bit his lip. I shook my head. don't worry about it. "No. "But you probably should. He shrugged." He smiled humorlessly. But here we are. I get it. "You're not in love with me. I really am. "We're not even dating. Hadley.
Take off. So I get what it's like for you right now.” "You don't know how I feel. He shook his head. Hadley. I know. Believe me. I had nothing to say. It’s fine. “Since when?” My voice sounded strangled. His face . It's terrible." He nodded. And I know what that feels like and I'll make this easy for you." he said. Go home. I wanted to cry." he yelled. You feel guilty and awkward and like you failed to communicate something to me.—” "Jesus." I said. I was almost sure that I’d start crying." he repeated quietly. He looked at me again and exhaled. "I'm in love with you. He smiled sadly. “Do you get that?” I bit my lip. I didn’t feel awkward. "I love you. everything was fine. You knew that I—” "I said I’m love with you. Hadley. “See?” He shook his head. He laughed. I broke the rules and I got burned and that’s my fault. I felt sick. haven't you listened to anything I said?" "Well. "There are about a dozen girls who I had to say I was sorry to because I didn't love them. "But most of all you feel like you want to get the hell away as fast as possible. "I'm sorry." "Would you stop saying that?" I snapped. He threw his head back and I took a step back and looked at him. He lifted the flask to his lips.
“You don’t want this and I’ll… I’ll deal with it. Not your mess anyways. distant. I’d seen it a million times.” I expected him to turn back and look at me as he walked back towards the house. Or something.” "Well. Go. But the door closed and he didn’t come back. “I don’t know. It’s fine. arrogant smile like he’d never even worried about anything before in his life. He stared at me. I didn’t have a ride back to my apartment. I expected him to laugh and say he was fucking with me.” He smiled. It’ll be easier for you and it’ll be easier for me. do you want me to come say goodbye? To Riley or your. I stood staring at that door for a long time. By the time I got home I was shaking from the cold. I felt so tired.. or that he’d call me tomorrow or that he’d see me around. And I didn’t call for one. Go. I’ll clean up. This empty. On his Facebook page. The air was cold enough that I couldn’t think about the icy pain in my chest. “Nah. you should go.” he bit his lip. like I’d walked eight miles instead of half of . Maybe since I met you.. when he was talking to people he didn’t really know.family?" He gave me a cocky smile. But. too. or that he just needed some space.twisted when he swallowed. he was drunk. when someone told a story he didn’t think was particularly funny and he wanted to be polite. Don't worry about it. “Listen.
taking off my heels. He turned to look at me.” I insisted. as he crossed the room to me. flipping on the lights.one. David. .” I said. took the kettle down from the cabinet.” David said. He got up from the couch next to Justin. and filled it with water. I smiled as widely as I could manage. “Nothing. I took a deep breath and managed to keep the sobs down until I’d entangled myself from his wrist and gotten to the bathroom to turn on the shower. “You’re early. He didn’t do anything. “Hadley. “How was it?” I smiled. “Hadley! What the hell happened?” David asked. Then I burst into tears.” I said.” “Please. squeezing my eyes shut. pressing my hand to my mouth. “What did he do?” “Nothing. I shuddered in the doorway.
" "What?" "That this would end badly." "Why?" "Because he broke up with me." I took a breath." "In love?" "Not the way he meant it. "I have to go. He insisted on an explanation." "He told me to leave. "I don't believe in that stuff. "Nothing." "What did you say?" I shrugged.” I said. And when I’d finally spat out the whole sorry story. I probably had done it before. "He told me he loved me and that I had to go. “David." David called after me. "Do you love him?" I cocked my head at David. “I should have known. I shook my head. "He seems to think so. But I’d never . The newspaper has to get put out. I have to go." "Hadley. used the newspaper as an excuse to hide from people." I said. I left." "But you aren't even dating. And I did." I put my hair into a ponytail and gathered up my things. I exhaled. I still hadn’t touched my pancakes. “Is it really a problem that he loves you?" I shrugged.Chapter Thirty-Four David refused to let me leave the next morning." He was quiet. David looked at me in concern.
Every comma I cut. every sentence I reworded. I was afraid. on a Saturday morning. I had no idea how I was going to face Professor Riley in class on Monday. You can’t compromise. Another voice.been so aware of it. like he'd seen this coming and he hadn't been able to stop it and for some reason that was funny. I copyedited the newspaper. But. I knew exactly what I was doing. . I wondered what Jack had said when he returned to dinner. Like finding out something that had seemed too good to be true just wasn't true. a tiny voice told me. He told me he loved me and I wanted to say it back. You’re breaking your own heart . looping letters in the corner of my notebook. when I looked up for my work long enough to think about it. one I knew better and trusted more. I scrawled my name in nervous. I tried not to think about the way Jack smiled on Friday night. feeling hung-over and half-empty. Had he told them I was crazy or heartless or just feeling sick? Had he just told them the truth? I sat in the second-to-last row. spoke back you have to break your own heart. So. close to the back of the room.
I got up and walked down the rows to where he stood by his desk. of course.Well. and I didn't look up when he grumbled hello to the class. It was the end of something. it was more than a fight." He looked around. Or whatever that had been on Friday. He didn't look at me all class. I wasn't going to talk first. I bit my lip and took notes and when he was finished talking. and Hadley?" Shit. we'll be distributing your assigned journalist for your profile. and I finally looked up when he referenced a statistic on a slide. Obviously. A fight? No. He had moved to ethical constraints on journalism when it came to respecting other people's religious beliefs. I did my best to pack up my things in record speed. I couldn't think of a . "Can I talk to you for a second after class?" I wondered if Jack had told him we’d broken up. I had scrawled my name over half the page by the time Riley walked in. I chewed my thumbnail while the classroom emptied. He wasn't looking at me. "Are you going to come down here?" Riley asked with a grin. "Oh. "Now before you go.
" I said." He nodded. I had a . He stared at me piercingly.. "Anyways. "Yeah. Scott Diamond.single thing to say. you can choose someone else." He laughed. Friday was fun. I cocked my head. He was idealistic. I guess even investigative journalists missed the obvious sometimes. cocking his head.. he said that." "Oh. I opened my mouth and then closed it. "So. I think it's good. "It's the only time I'd thought to assign him to anyone and I'd like it if you did it. "I'm not his girlfriend or anything. too. "Right." I said quietly." "Anyways. I cocked my head and cleared my throat." I nodded." He smiled. "I didn't know about you and Jack. it was nice seeing you. Christ." I said. He told me to go away. though. So much for the not talking first. I'd assigned you Jack's father. if you're not comfortable with the assignment because of that. But I thought you'd do a good job with it." "I'll do it." Riley smiled. "I mean." he said.how did you put it? Not Jack's girlfriend or anything?" He smiled at me. "He'd have liked you. Whatever you are. But I understand if you'd prefer not to. I smiled back. "I'd made the decision before I knew you were. "You're good for him." He looked at me. Jesus.
The sad thing was that I didn’t think he’d ever find out. my father had sent me an email about . "It's how he shows he cares about people. But he wouldn't know." He grinned. Thanks. But we weren't. "If he's fighting with you." I wished that we were fighting. "Thanks. you know. "Well. My phone hadn't been quiet. Because I didn’t think he’d ever talk to me again. unwilling to shatter that perception. "For a research project and unsolicited relationship advice for someone you swear you're not dating? Anytime.feeling Jack would hate it if he knew." I nodded once. Not exactly. I walked quickly from his classroom to the newspaper office. thanks." He laughed. because it seemed to make him happy. You feeling better?" So that's what Jack had gone with. "I feel great." I looked at him." "Like I said. but I'm really not his girlfriend." He nodded. "Good. Glad to hear it. but you should know Jack's a fighter. He nodded. whatever you are to him. My mother had texted about dinner plans for graduation weekend. And I was letting him." I managed to laugh and told him I had to get to a meeting. ah. Sick. He was ignoring me. it's good. "I hope you don't take this the wrong way.
But I felt brittle and I thought that reading about it might break me. But Jack hadn't sent me anything. The way I couldn’t stop remembering. pulled my phone from the drawer and tapped out a response to my mother. but I wanted something to do. I would've delegated it to a junior writer. On a normal day. I packed up my things and went home. I started crying in the shower. The first sob felt like it was ripping through me. It was dry material and uncomplicated—the report released by the Alumni Affairs Office came with charts and detailed analyses. That seemed surreal. Graduation wasn't far off—two months now—just eight weeks. I sighed when I finished it and forwarded it to Andrew for copyedits. No one would know. I peered out my door. I glanced out the window. and David had sent me a gif of a dancing rabbit. The way he had told me to leave. I put the phone in a drawer so I couldn't think about it and turned my attention to writing a brief on employment statistics for recent graduates. The newspaper office was quiet. Something about the hot water on my skin. I could. and when I realized I wasn’t .a suicide bombing in Syria with the subject line FYI. If I wanted to Google Scott Diamond.
If anyone needs their spine realigned. “What are you doing?” I demanded.” David said knowingly." he said serenely. I wandered out into the living room to David.going to be able to stop them. “Huh." he said. tile floor and tried to breathe through the pouring water." He snapped open one eye. . I shifted. “How do you know when it’s aligning?” “When you feel the tension leave your body. I just let myself cry. I sat down on the cold. so was the second one. "Lie down. wrapped myself in one towel. "It means shut up and lie down." "How?" "Bad energy. who was lying flat on the floor listening to some kind of new age spa music. I was crying because he said he loved me and that I had to leave and I knew that if the first thing was true.. I sat down next to him in my towel and looked at the ceiling. and put my hair up in another one.” “Sh. I never expected to feel this rejected. "You're killing my zen. “Realigning my spine. I got out of the shower. like it could stop the flood of emotion. I scrubbed my hair viciously." So I did." "What does that even mean?" I demanded. it's you..
” I informed him. Shut up." .” “Close your eyes.” I breathed and stared at the ceiling and closed my eyes." "Sounds complicated.” he informed me. “Well. I chuckled.” he said. My damp shoulder brushed David’s and I waited for the tension to leave my body. He stood up. you haven’t been working hard enough at the silence. “There. “Start with silence.” He handed me a warm mug of tea. Maybe it was being hit with a wave of exhaustion. girlfriend?” David asked gently.” “Sure. now it’s definitely not going to align.“What does that feel like?” David turned his head to me and glared. My breathing slowed. I'm writing a paper on Jack’s father for the journalism class taught by his godfather who doesn't believe that I'm not his girlfriend. But something happened.” he said. “What are you talking about? My spine is still misaligned. Maybe it was the tension leaving my body. “Well. "Your mom emailed me about graduation. Tension leaving will eventually follow. “Want some tea?” I sat up. “How you doing. Our hands brushed. “Spectacular.
Especially since mine aren’t.” He nodded. If she doesn't mind?" "She won't. Yeah." . I'll tell my mom to add them to our reservations. That will be weird."Oh yeah. If you want. "Mm. my parents are coming." I smiled." "Nice. "Justin said his parents wanted to come." "Yeah? You don't think that'll be weird?” "I mean.
And I had a feeling if I couldn't handle this. I chewed my fingernails looking at the search results. The video was a few years old. I knew I'd have to be tougher. . I turned my head. Scott Diamond's Son Recites Father's Last Words I clicked on the link with trembling fingers. If I had a little more nerve. Say something stupid. it wouldn't say much for my prospects in Syria. biting my lip. I did not hit play. just as he started being the first person I told everything to. I stared at the frozen image for a long time.Chapter Thirty-Five I didn't work up the nerve to Google Scott Diamond until midnight on Saturday. Finally. I got up and walked away from it. I shut the screen of my computer and pushed it away. I'd have called Jack and asked him how dare he tell me to go away just when I had gotten used to having him around. Weekend. Have a few drinks. That's when most people worked up the nerve to say what they wanted. but Alex. Something that you mean. Midnight. It wasn't Jack. looking back at the computer. taken when Alex was at West Point. I couldn't look down on that. I closed my eyes. I could either research Scott Diamond or I could tell Riley I couldn't do it.
in 1986. She gave birth to his son. he and Riley were asked to cover the war in Afghanistan. and was hospitalized when shrapnel in his leg became infected. After the terrorist attacks on September 11 th. Not that afternoon. Scott James Diamond was born in 1961 in Chicago. Not that night. He agreed. He was the co-recipient of the Pulitzer Prize with Robert Riley in 1994. and took a mailroom job with the Chicago Tribune. co-authored a book. He spent time in the First Gulf War. I walked to it and opened the screen and began to work. and was named the Chief of the Moroccan News Bureau. In January of 2002. Alexander. He attended the University of Illinois. The last time most people saw him would be in the photographs they released. and his son Jack in 1992. Riley had a stomach bug from drinking the water so Scott Diamond went alone.and gnawed on my lip. got a graduate degree in journalism from NYU. He looked levelly into a . He returned to the Metropolitan desk at The New York Times in 1999. married her in 1985. He spent three years in Bosnia. He didn't come back. He met Julie Rowland in 1983. IL. he went to a café to meet with a source.
holding a newspaper with the day's date. with serious but unpanicked eyes. cut off his head. the repercussions and the warnings. That was what they taught you. But it would never be the full story. I took notes on all of this. It would . Like an animal. They slaughtered him. I knew exactly what had occurred and I also knew it was too horrible to ever fully understand. and the camera went black. I couldn’t understand the violence or the terror or the brutality or the basic tragedy of a kid's father dying like that. It made less sense. I could tell you what happened to Scott Diamond. Not what had happened. I closed my laptop and my notes and walked away from them.camera. refusing to leave. But I couldn't get to a place in my head where I could understand it. The way to make sense of things was to take detailed notes and to construct a narrative. I twitched. I recognized the reasons the men who murdered Jack's father gave for their awful crime. I took more notes. identifying causes and effects. the less sense it made. They didn't kill Scott Diamond. The more I learned. I understand the timeline. The last time a very small handful of people would see him would be in the VHS tape sent to the Kabul hotel room where Riley had holed up. I knew what had happened. They slit his throat.
never be the story of what happened to Jack Diamond’s dad. .
highlighting the key elements in play from the moment of his abduction to his ultimate death. I never met Scott Diamond but I knew his son. but I did it. It was. and I knew that it was a good thing to learn how to do. you knew it would never again be as cold as it had been. I was up early—the first nice day—and I didn't see anyone walking across campus to the newspaper office.Chapter Thirty-Six The first nice day came at the end of March. I could only take so much at one time. When you knew winter had just about ended. The first real day of spring. And I knew that was because of Jack. I liked the quiet in the office. There was something relaxing about it. Starting a pot of bitterly . too. mitigating some barely-there anxiety. writing down the details. It would be cold again—maybe once or twice— but when the temperature soared to the high sixties. I did it slowly. I hated the Scott Diamond assignment. I had barely noticed March until that warm day. To write about something awful happening to a person who meant more to you than the average person did. selfishly. When it became clear that Jack wasn't going to come back to me. an exercise in empathy. if nothing else. that Jack didn't want to be friends. about checking every box. I buried myself in work like I used to.
She had smiled and shrugged when I suggested it.strong coffee. Hadley. it was dark. while answering a series of challenging questions about their contextual meaning. Jack. waved back. When I looked up again. I turned to my homework. It was the sort of work that took a lot of focus— so much that you couldn't think of anything but the noise and what it all meant. Andrew popped his head and waved." When I'd gotten a few things into shape. letting me know he was here. That was weird. I had started working in my newspaper office around the time when I started being worried that I'd run into Jack on campus. and kept working. I put on my headphones to listen to Arabic conversations spoken at a quick clip. Jack. I unlocked the phone and scrolled to my missed calls. I began to think about the positions we needed to fill next year. I flipped my phone over to see I'd missed four calls while it was on silent. . I smiled. I thought Juliet could be a good Editor-in-Chief. It looks like a ton of work. But she said she didn't know if she wanted the job. "I don't know. I pulled off my headphones and sighed.
“Is everything okay?” “Come to the house." I said. have you had dinner—” Andrew trailed off when he saw I was on the phone. Come on. lit up with his name again. "Great.” "Why? Just come here. I've got to go. “Everything okay?” Andrew asked.” “I don't think that's a good idea. "Hey. “I can't. "Come on. They were having a party." he muttered frantically. It sounded like a thousand people were chattering behind him.” he begged.” "Hey. "Hadley?" “Jack? What do you want?” I asked quietly. pick up." ." he said. I've got to talk to you. The phone.” I hung up and put the phone away. “Come on. I swallowed. Andrew was watching me. "I have to go. "Hadley?" Jack said. still on silent. Or something. “I gotta see you. “Jack. Hads.” “Please.” I wavered." I said. I picked up the phone. Jack.Jack. come on.
"Chinese?" I nodded and he left my office. But. "You want to order dinner?" "Sure. though. He smiled. he'd kept it quiet. "Everyone thought you'd lost your mind. "Number one cause of breakups at Northwestern?" "I've never heard that. all I could hear was the drunken slur to his words. but I waited an appropriate period of time. I didn't know." "Come on?" he laughed. of course. If Jack had a history of sleeping around. And I hadn't. all I could see was Jack’s face. I tried to focus on fixing an awkward split infinitive in the third sentence of Scott Fleischer’s article on vending machine robberies."Was that Jack?" I cast a wary eye at him. And so had his friends." I said. You know?" I looked at him. "You're better off. And in the buzzing silence of the room. "Jack Diamond?" He smiled. before I slipped my stuff into my bag and went to find Andrew. I didn't like the idea of people knowing anything about it. When the phone lit up with his name again. The phone rang again. I simply turned it off. I silenced it with a flick of my finger and bowed my head. I nodded." I said. Though it made sense: handsome and tall and popular and that goddamn smile." Andrew said. I gotta see you. "No. . I couldn’t do anymore work.
“I just. “Hadley. staring at my phone. Ten missed calls.” I bit my lip. three new voicemails. It was impossible to get him back . that you could come over here.” “You’re drunk and you think I’m available. wondering if I should call him. Remember?” “I don’t want to have fun." He grinned. I stopped in the parking lot. It sounded like he was crying.” he said fiercely. I answered it. wondering if I should just go over there and see him. “Pick up. His voice broke." "Yeah. god fucking…” “It’s Hadley.” I told him. When my phone rang again. Hadley?” His voice was ragged with emotion.” I heard him take a sharp breath. “I need…I need you. “I want to see you. Maybe if I was a bitch. right?" "Right. I'll see you tomorrow.” he said tightly. “Why?” I asked.” he whispered. "No worries. he could just hate me."Do you mind if I bail on Chinese?" I asked. any way at all.. Can't focus anymore. That would be easier for both of us.. It had only been half an hour." I turned my phone back on. is there any way.” “Oh. “Look. I really want to see you. “It’s not fun anymore. "I've been here all day.
I walked up the stairs. and a self-loathing smile on his face. So I hoped he'd be in his room. In my jeans and Hanes t-shirt. Handsome Jack. "Thank you. The closer I got. when I opened the door and stood there." He exhaled. I'll come." I said. “Hi. or through the throng of people spilling out of the living room and into a narrow hallway." I hung up the phone and drove to the house. because he still sounded hurt. I closed the door. He didn’t say anything. It was impossible to drive home and sleep. Maybe upstairs. I stepped through the open door. I didn't want to venture into the kitchen. with my backpack firmly on my shoulders. Jack sat against the wall in his room. "Okay. There was loud music playing downstairs and red plastic cups lining the railing of the porch. squeezing past a pin-thin Asian girl with a flower behind one ear and a redheaded sophomore boy making out aggressively by the bannister. “What’s wrong?” I asked. It was the prettiest girls and the coolest boys. watching the news on mute.” he whispered like a little kid. the more inadequate I felt. "Okay.now. looking around for him. with an open bottle of whiskey. The bass beat of the speakers . It was impossible to tell him I was fun when he'd already told me that I hurt him.
"I don't know. I thought I'd be over it by now.shuddered through the room. He laughed. glassy-eyed." I said. right? We go to the same school and you live down the road. "I miss you. I shouldn't have said anything. "Maybe I could be. impossibly sad.” “You're not fucked up." "It's not weird." "Over what? Me?" He laughed. "I'd blame it on you if I could. And with Jack sitting against a wall. He closed his eyes and slumped further down. But I'm not." He smiled. you." He shook his head." I looked at him. what you want then. with so many books in it." I said. "I don't know. I swallowed. “I’m all fucked up again." He lifted the bottle to his lip. "I can't be the girl who follows you." He leaned back. "I'm sorry I can't be who you want.” . "I miss you. Would you like to be?" Jack shrugged." “Are we still friends?” he asked." I exhaled. It's weird." I bit my lip. drunk. "I'm sorry I told you I loved you. too. I can’t not go to Syria." "Well. The painfully neat room. "Yeah. "You're exactly who I want. "Stupid. And you can't just be whatever it was that you were to me.
No matter how drunk he was. He reached for my waist and kissed me." He rolled his eyes." He laughed. "David says my spine is misaligned. we cannot. no matter how sober and stupid I was. "That's just my personality. I wanted to see you.I walked over to him and sat down next to him against the wall. "I don't want you to be nice to me. and it was funny and horribly painful and deeply aching all at once. I was quiet. "Being mean to you right now would be like kicking a puppy. Jack. and whispering: “We cannot do this. "You said you wanted to talk." he said. he could still kiss me like it was what he was born to do." He gave me a look. "Because you're drunk and sad. I was left breathless and senseless. Like the laughter echoed and because of that you knew you were hollow." "Drunk and sad?" He laughed and I did. cannot . "He says that's the root of all of my problems. Especially not when you're looking like that. He exhaled." "Well." "I lied. I tried to think of something comforting to say." "Because I'm adorable. I'm not going to be mean to you." Jack said softly. too." he said." "Don't be nice to me.
She kept looking to fall in love with someone. "It's not that dangerous.do this." I closed my eyes. The rejection still stung. "I don't know. Do you think that could ever work?" He bit his lip." He was quiet. at least I knew now. I'm going to Syria in May. the one that I absolutely can't break is the one that you want me to. you know? I don't want that.. I shrugged. if we tried again and if we gave up all the other rules and I still went to Syria. And maybe the rules were overkill. "She just never got it together after my dad left. "No. I bit my lip.” “Will you tell me something?” “Yeah. I wanted to know." I bit my lip.. right? I mean. He shook his head. But I asked. It wasn't fair for me to have this conversation with him when he was drunk. But. "I mean." .” “I’m still going to Syria.” “I can’t stop thinking about you. I just can’t. My way of not turning into my mother. The chances of me dying. Well. You can't deal with that. I can’t give that up." "What was with the rules? Seriously?" he asked. But I can't not go. And she was always at their whims.
"This sucks. turned off the lights. I looked down at him. "No." He took a breath. He met my eyes. "And he's been dead for a decade. I can't." He took a long sip from his bottle. But I wouldn't want you to say yes. I shook him gently. Nothing. "I still wake up in the middle of the night panicking about my dad." he said. . I moved the whiskey bottle to the other side of the room and filled a glass of water and put it next to his bed. and stumble into his bed.. his thicklashed eyes closed." He cleared his throat.. He closed them. "Yeah. "And Alex is in Afghanistan and. And I can't ask you to give it up. I smoothed his hair back off of his forehead. Nothing worse can happen to him. and I felt him nod off to sleep." he said. He was wasted. He dropped his head to my shoulder. breathing quietly. helped him get to his feet. I pressed a light kissed to the top of his head." I agreed. I know you'd say no if I did."It's not rational. And I still can't sleep sometimes thinking he's somehow still suffering." He looked at me. and walked away.
They worked. I got away without him seeing me... And I fought the urge to text him during the day. I decided not to say hi. by the time he was out of view. ".Chapter Thirty-Seven I didn't see Jack again until May. So. They made sense. "Who’s talking about Oxford commas?" Justin fell silent. They were good together. Maybe they'd just met. his fingers curled around a Starbucks cup. he was at the library.. someone else had gotten him to the library. I couldn't decide whether or not that was a victory though. when I was sober and clear-headed. I spent time with David and Justin. not wanting to worry if he'd told her about me or if maybe she was just a girl from an English class or if maybe she wasn't anybody at all." I closed the door to our apartment and dropped my bag on the floor.and now she's sending emails at 5 AM about Oxford commas. "She does look kind of cracked out. He whispered to a girl with golden hair and smiled occasionally. He texted me occasionally late at night when I was sure he had been drinking and I ignored him until they stopped. I mean. When I saw Jack in May. He was leaned over a book.” David . she's got to get a grip..
looking at David.” "I just don't understand why everyone is confused about Oxford commas. David looked right back at me. “You read it?” I asked." Justin said. About grammar.” "Justin forwarded it to me. “I told you not to bring up the email." Justin said quickly." "Well. "Justin thinks you might be spiraling. I think you're spiraling." David said.commented." Justin added." he added. I glared at him ferociously. "I didn't say that.” David said. Especially not about commas." I took a sip of my Red Bull. "Just to be clear. Single-spaced." "Okay. . "Is this about the email?" "It's like five pages long.” David chimed in.” "You shouldn't be sending emails at five in the morning. The Northwestern Daily News does not use Oxford Commas. It's disturbed. Is that really that complicated? No. "I didn't say you were spiraling. "They're sloppy and it's May and people should know these things by now. “That was only for the newspaper staff. It’s not complicated at all." "Spiraling?" "Into despair. You're totally unreliable.
"Got it. Hadley. Then we go." "You and Justin?" "No. cowboy boots. and a soft blue cardigan. He grabbed my wrist. We don’t have that much time left to spend with them." "So?" "These are people you've gone to school with for four years." he said. I hadn't had a drink in a long time. He has things to learn. "One beer. C'mon."And disturbed. I realized. You . His GPA still matters. It's pub crawl. I sipped slowly and the wine made me sleepy more than anything.” I said." “Fine. I was yawning while we walked to the bar." "You've got nothing to do." "We're going to the bar to have a beer and celebrate basically being done with college." "Like what?" David asked." I said. Justin is a freshman. I sat with David and had a glass of wine." I said." “I have things to do. "Andrew will be there. I went to my room and slipped into a sundress. It was nice. “Writing an email about apostrophes?” "Just things. looking at the line. You and me. It was nice to relax. "I would rather take a nap. I won't make you brush your hair.
I bit my lip. People seemed pretty emotional actually. I wanted it to go away and worried it never would. We only had a few weeks left. The one I’d seen in the library. and the bittersweet realization we were nearing the end had infiltrated the bar. His hair was a bit longer." "No way. Completely bearable. Smiled. the ache was sharper. and he'd rolled up the sleeves of a flannel shirt that I hadn't seen before. Bearable." David ordered. Looked back at her. I'd missed him badly at first. When I saw him." We were both too sober for the place. I had known I'd see Jack when we'd walked over." "Well. Jesus. Some of them she knew. I looked over my shoulder at them twice. It felt like standing on the doorstep of my grandmother's house when I was a kid. She shoved Nate's shoulder like they were old friends. Whatever.go. "Go say hi. watching him. Yet. "You . He was with the same girl. but now it was more like a dull ache. he had a few day's stubble. laughing. He was introducing her to people. That was the worst. then stop staring. He caught me looking. I missed him. But it also felt good.
Cold. You would've ended up like one of those clueless women married to the total psychopath on SVU with the child bride in the basement. "You did the right thing in getting out when you did. "What about you. Xander looked at me for a long minute." "She does not. Hadley?" he asked. "How are you?" "Fine." I said." I smiled. if I was being honest. "She does.want a beer?" I shook my head. "Ginger ale would be great. "She looks like she's twelve. He ordered a child bride from Russia online. He handed David a beer. . Xander filled a cup with ice and ginger ale. "Ginger ale. He sounded overly polite. He looked at me with frozen eyes and pushed the glass across the bar." I smiled as warmly as I could." I laughed. He looked at me like I really pissed him off." David looked over." "That's so boring. "I don't want to get drunk and go over there and say something stupid. when we reached the bar." "I'll have a Corona.” he said shortly." David said to Xander. thanks." "Groovy.
" "Hey. I’m glad I came." "Svetlana."On the house. I nodded. "I think I wanted vodka." I said. it was fun. Jack definitely included. I shrugged." I said." "Let's guess the name of the child bride. "See you at home?" ." he said icily." "Now. "Tatiana. "What's with him?" David asked as we watched him walk away." I said. He snorted and dragged me over to the seniors in the GSA he had rekindled his friendships with." "Too 19th century. "I'm tired. sipping my ginger ale. I looked around. I kept looking over to see if he was still around. suddenly sick of it. "Should we nap?" David disagreed with and disapproved of my suggestion. He was never looking at me when I checked. "Let's not think about Jack or Jack's child bride." He chuckled." he said. "You sure?" David asked with concern." "Thank you for coming." I countered. you're being sensible." "Fine. David included. "I know you didn't want to. "I'm going to go. "Anastasia." I hugged him. People were getting drunk.
He nodded. I’d gotten a lot out of college. And I hated feeling so detached. I had felt like this all the time before I started seeing Jack. and the pretty new girl. I realized. I looked back at the door. or just when I saw Jack. It hadn’t bothered me then. I felt alone. I felt older than my classmates. and the job I had always wanted. I'd be graduating in two weeks." I left alone. the exact same thing that you were. I'd just been in a crowded room of people. But now that I had been in crowded rooms with him and known what it was like to feel like the person next to you was. I missed it. I heard a familiar laugh and I turned to see Jack. profoundly unlinked to the people with whom I had so much in common. but I felt disengaged from it. I told myself. I turned back towards the road. shouldering out the door into the warm evening. Which was strange. But I felt like I'd missed out on some essential part of being young. But I shook my head. a friend named David who I would do anything for. I didn’t need to ask for anything more. All good things. I had a degree. in some unique way. I knew that was my fault. "Yeah. and it took a moment for him to see . detached completely. I wondered if I would always hate it now. wondering if I should give it one last shot.
"Hey!" he called. His face fell while he was looking at me. Jack closed his eyes briefly." "Jack! What's the address of this place?" she called. He looked deadly serious." "That's okay. "Hadley. Really. I'll be back before the cab's here." I smiled." I laughed. I didn't want to meet the girl or talk to the boy or do any of the post-notbreaking up stuff." "Let us drop you off. Hadley." I nodded. and I was." "I'm going home. but he locked his feet in place so I just ended up with my hand resting on his shoulder. but it . "Thanks. I was the one who should've been annoyed and jealous. "Jack!" she called. I pushed his shoulder playfully." "Jack. I dropped it to my side. He stopped laughing." He looked at me. I didn't turn around. He looked like he was going to say something. I'll see you around." He looked resigned to that. it's around the corner. I heard his footsteps as he ran after me. "Shit.me. "It's a five minute walk. "Hold up. I started walking. "You look good.
wasn't fair." I said. Of course I was alone. He didn't follow me and he didn't say anything but when I reached the corner. Of course she was pretty. . "I'll see you around. I snuck a glance over my shoulder at him. Of course he was with another girl. He was still watching.
where I paid the rent." "And you like that boy. I rolled my eyes. "Your generation has some messed up ideas about normal relationships. "Your boyfriend agreed with me. "Dad." he said." "Dad." . I knew he'd be more practical about what I needed and what I'd be able to afford. and wouldn't be suddenly evicted when my mother's marriage fell apart." "You broke up?” "We were never dating." my dad said when I met him at the hotel for lunch. My dad needed to be in New York that weekend and said he'd look with me." he pointed out. You know that?" I inhaled sharply. My mother and Solomon had both called to offer me Solomon's Greenwich Village apartment.Chapter Thirty-Eight It was the feeling of detachment that prompted me to forgo the last weekend of festivities before graduation to apartment hunt with my father in New York." He sipped his water. "That boy likes you. but I didn't want that. "He's not my boyfriend. I wanted a place of my own. "I still think this is a bad idea.
" he said. "Shut up. He smiled. if the security deposit was fully refundable. it has high ceilings. "You want to see what New York looks like on a journalist's salary?" I raised my eyebrows." I said. He ripped the bread in half and took a bite. It has the highest crime rate in New York. And it was clean and the neighborhood wasn't nearly as bad as my father made it out to be. He let me ask the broker most questions—rent. "It might be scarier than Syria. My dad told me he thought I had a suicide gene when I told him I liked the place on 116th Street best." It wasn't scary. if there was someone I could call if I ever lost my keys. extracting a piece of bread from the basket before him.” "Well. My dad cosigned the lease grudgingly and we went . "This is Spanish Harlem. transport— and he chimed in with things I wouldn’t have thought of— whether the building was responsible for fixing appliances. I liked the idea of having a little bit more space up here instead of a closet and a bathroom further downtown."Screwy ideas. My father didn't gloat though. security deposit. But it sure was small and overpriced." He smiled. "Why?" I asked.
"The only people worth keeping around are the ones who drive you crazy." He shrugged. He stormed out of dinner. He knew people everywhere.” I said. even in places where he shouldn't. "Your mother is in a state about you going to Syria.to dinner. We ate at a famous restaurant in Harlem that my dad somehow knew somebody at.” "Well." "You slept with a secretary. "If I figured that out when I was twenty-five. like he wasn’t sure he believe me. why'd you dump him?" "How do you know he's not the one who dumped me?" "I saw how he looked at you. So. you must have been hallucinating because he ended things. My dad started in on Jack again after we ordered wine." He nodded." I said. tired but infinitely relieved that we wouldn’t have to spend the next day tramping around walk-ups." . "It was complicated." I exhaled. He was the opposite of me in that way—I didn't know people in places where I should. My dad studied me for a second and nodded. "It's not like I enlisted. "You met him for five minutes. I'd probably have never left your mother.
And instead of just getting on with things. annoyed. "Well." "That's over. no matter who we had to leave or where we had to go." he said. I lowered my voice. But.” He held up his hands in surrender. "I don't think you'd much like thinking about David going over there though. you think I'm being selfish?" I demanded. And you were never there. about time. That was selfish. "Listen. Mom went looking for love. The diners at the table next to us glanced over at me. and you are. "Fair enough." "I know it affects you and I know I pretend not to ." I bristled. I'm twenty-two. "Or Jack. but it's selfish to refuse to see how it affects the people who care about you. Over and over and over."No. embarrassed. You think you're doing something selfless and noble." He cleared his throat. Okay? It's for my career. don't you think? You know how many times we moved? You know how many different stepsisters and stepbrothers I grew up with that I don't talk to anymore? That mom told me were family members before she changed her mind?" The restaurant wasn't noisy enough to drown out my voice." He paused. seemingly perplexed. "I know it's selfish. All I'm asking is that you acknowledge our concern. "Oh. Hadley. That was selfish." “Alright.
the fact that I’m choosing my career is something you should respect." I said." He leaned back and looked me in the eye. So.see it. "It might be different if you had ever given me the courtesy of acknowledging how things affected me.” "I'm sure you convinced yourself. Dad. You knew I wouldn't be. I shrugged. You would've been. "I thought you'd be better off with your mother. I didn't talk myself into thinking that. "I'm not saying it was perfect—life with your mother. You just wished I would. "I feel like that's probably what you did when you came to visit. Your mother didn't. "The point. I would’ve had to hire someone to raise you." He met my eyes. But I did believe it was better. but I didn't want an explanation either." I continued. is that you chose your career. "I worked.” .” I hadn't expected an apology. I was working sixteen-hour days six days a week. And Mom chose romance. but I wasn't deceiving myself. looking down at a menu. I know it wasn’t. "But you're a smart guy. I know that. I thought you'd be neglected if you lived with me. right? You pretended not to see how freaked out I was?" He didn't meet my eyes.” He rested his chin on his hand and cleared his throat. The thing you learn when you grow up is how to make do with the choices you have. Maybe I was wrong. And neither of you chose me. You don't get to run a company without noticing a few things.
” He was quieter at dinner then. “Well." I nodded. Hadley."It is. . about how much savvier the young associates at work were. He told me about the tech company in Europe they'd been looking into. good. and about how he couldn't believe I was graduating from college.
" "You'll have to forgive Dale. "You're young to be doing this.” ." I followed him to an elevator bank and up to the eighteenth floor. I couldn’t believe I was here—at the New York Times as a new hire. I do." I smiled and caught the eye of a much-younger reporter grinning in the corner. “Um." Dale growled. Dale waved at the younger reporter to get his attention and made an indecipherable series of hand gestures. He nodded. "You’ll be overseas mostly. "Well." "I heard that. "Come on." He smiled. Kip laughed.” "So. right?" I nodded. you'll have a neat desk. He was tall and lanky with dark hair and square-framed glasses. while he was on the phone." He smiled. The younger reporter grinned.Chapter Thirty-Nine Dale shook my hand gruffly. "Hadley. “Yeah." "Nice to meet you. "You speak Arabic or something?" I nodded again. He woke up in a good mood and he's been trying very hard not to show it. Let's get you set up. whatever the fuck happens." "What?" "Going to a conflict zone. I'm Kip Styles. we're not going to get scooped by Larry Dawes. yeah.
” He grinned. Not nearly as prestigious as international news. "And I cover sports a little. but they also never send me further than Yankee Stadium. I couldn't believe I was actually." . "When's graduation?" "Saturday. “They usually don't take anyone out of college without good reason. "Hey. Baseball and hockey. Sure."I thought so." I nodded. "Let's chat." he said.” “Cool.” He nodded. Arabic is a good reason. "Don't let him freak you out.” I smiled." I nodded and followed him into his office." I nodded." Kip left me for coffee and I looked around the newsroom in awe. "Yeah." He logged me into a computer and set up my email account. “Dale said he’d come up to brief you and then you'll probably be free to go after that. “It’s fun. "You're done with classes?" I nodded." Dale said. I won't. really here. pocketing his Blackberry and coming back towards me. He closed the door. "What do you do?" "Metro. of course.
with the rest of the Arab Spring uprisings. . "Large parts of the conflict can be found in the religious differences. “The conflict’s been going on for two years now." "It's bordered by Lebanon. Assad is an Alawite. the government tried to crush the demonstrations using military force. And it’s been complicated by religion and by the involvement of other countries. "Official language is Arabic. as well as political ones. Turkey. "Good. which means he's part of a minority branch of Islam. it’s become a full-scale Civil War." He nodded.” I took a breath. as opposed to the Sunni branch. Current death toll?" I lifted my shoulders. Bashar al-Assad. The protests developed into a violent uprising against the ruling party. it's safe to say 40 to 50. Syria. So. Iraq. What do you know?" I looked at him warily." I bit my lip." I took a breath. In the past few months. They’ve been in power since 1963. has refused to resign under international pressure.000."Congratulations. However." "As of now. "Where should I start?" "With the basics. Protests began relatively peacefully. Christ. The ruling party is the Ba'ath Party. the current President. The current conflict started in 2011." He nodded. I haven't seen a specific number. and Jordan. "I don't know.
I listened and made notes." He smiled. "As a precaution. How much longer are you in town for?" . but Erin and Kevin will do most of the writing." We ran through the grim facts. What you should know is that where we are sending you is extremely unstable. It's helpful. many more. "Here's our timeline of major events. You're fluent in Arabic. "The young man over there now is leaving us for law school. "Right. let's run through this. He talked. "Think of yourself as a highly valuable assistant."Meaning it could be many. he cleared his throat. When we finished the most recent updates. but it's not the most important thing you should know." He nodded. He burnt out quickly—six months—but a lot of people don’t even last that long." he said. You'll contribute. You won't be doing that much reporting at first." Dale handed me a folder. "So. And millions of people have been displaced.” I nodded. Chip does photos. but it is ultimately unstable. It's safe enough. rest up. You know? Let your friends have your fun. Tell them you need to sleep. we have hostage training sessions for anyone going over there. No matter how many facts you memorize. The four of you will be a team. a clear head will be your most important asset." I nodded. "So. We feel comfortable with the risk.
so you're not panicked when you go."Friday. I think it's better to do this a few weeks before." . sure." "We can schedule it for Thursday. "Yeah." I nodded.
I'd found video clips of him online. It could have just been a friendly photo. But it hadn't. But it was just like watching Jack. "Even Syrians in the middle of a civil war. who I felt I had actually come to know by reporting on him for Riley’s class. I ended up with a notebook of things not to do and a foreboding sense that the training was a desperate attempt to assure workers they had some modicum of control. Jack was wearing his fraternity’s senior week t-shirt and Grace was wearing one from her sorority. I'd thought more of his father. During hostage training. Dale had told me to delete my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts and to open new ones just for work. Alex resembled their father much more closely than Jack. It was a boring interview about exchange rates. I had thought of Jack only sparingly. They had all the same mannerisms. which surprised me. Gladly. but there was one short clip I found of Scott Diamond interviewing a man outside of the New York Stock Exchange. But they were both beaming at the camera." Deleting my Facebook seemed like especially good advice when I logged in and saw a picture of Jack with some delicate-looking Asian girl named Grace on my newsfeed." He explained. .Chapter Forty I wanted to say the training had been reassuring. Delete. "Everyone uses social media now. And for some reason I hated that.
Those things humanized you. they told us. however. they told us.I wondered if Scott Diamond had known to not beg. Those things. could save your life. I wondered if any of it mattered at all. made you easier to kill. . the cake your mother cooked for your twelfth birthday. were helpful. Begging. Personal details. I wondered if he tried to tell the men who killed him about Jack and Alex and Julie. the bedtime story your sister told her kids. The things your father said when you went fishing. I wondered if they taught Scott Diamond to be compliant and calm.
We were far enough away from the . David chattered at my mother and plied her with champagne until she remembered the only thing she loved more than not speaking to my father was being the center of attention. Solomon. too. Justin's parents came. turning her attention towards Sol. laughing with each other. and Justin’s parents left us after dinner so we could be wild for one last night. We found Andrew and Nigel and Juliet and we drank underneath a big white tent. They were lovely. My mother rolled her eyes when Justin's mother explained she worked as a neurosurgeon. wondering what we’d missed. When Justin’s mother asked what she did for a living. My father's eyebrows took off towards his hairline. telling each other we couldn’t believe it was over. I laughed a lot." she said.Chapter Forty-One My mother came to town in a blue dress and with Solomon. she spoke haughtily: "I'm a mother. My parents. I understood for the first time in my life that my mother looked down on women who worked so that she would not have to look down on herself. intent on not speaking to my father. My parents turned out to be easier to ignore than they'd been before. in keeping with tradition. wondering when we would see each other again.
And Jack had been selfish. He hadn’t shaved in a few days. We all promised to come back and see them. nodded at me—“Hey. . you know that?” “You’re not so bad yourself. “You’re something else. and followed him. I sipped my beer and bit my lip. He looked scruffy. “Hey. finished my drink for courage. without yelling. Hadley”—and turned towards a crowd of boys in their fraternity so that Jack and I were alone. who had been named the next Editor-in-Chief.” “So. I pulled my hair into a ponytail. It was a good look on him. He smiled. I saw Jack from afar.C.” I said. I’d been selfish. to work for the weather bureau and to Juliet. Hadley Arrington. Juliet and Justin commiserated about how much they would miss us next year.” he said.” I wavered. “So. I found him with Xander and thankfully without a girl. there. We chose ourselves instead of the other person. thinking about what my dad had said about selfishness. I saw plaid and dark hair and that familiar walk. Xander got to his feet. Jack turned.music that I could talk to Andrew who was moving to D. Jack stood up to his full height and looked at me. Xander saw me first and nudged Jack with his shoulder. or at least I thought I did. Jack Diamond. I wanted to talk to him.
He nodded. He sipped his beer. “You leave tomorrow?” “After the ceremony, yep.” He smiled. “What about you? Where you headed?” “New York,” he nodded. “My mom’s house in the suburbs, though. Not the city. I need to figure some things out.” “Yeah,” I said. “Well, that’s good.” He nodded. “It’ll be nice. A lot of people will be nearby.” I snuck a look across the tent. The metal poles were wrapped in Christmas lights, the van Morrison song playing sounded a little sadder than it usually did, and Jack looked damn good. “Thank you,” Jack said, with a smile. I flushed. “What?” “You said I looked damn good. Thank you.” I closed my eyes. “Jesus. I’m sorry.” I could feel my face flaming. He laughed. “It’s fine. You always look damn good.” He licked his lips and stared at me nakedly. “So, maybe we’ll see each other,” I ventured. I tried to think of him in New York—the both of us growing up a little bit—and then maybe in a few years…. “God, I really hope not, Hadley,” he said. Right. I swallowed. “Yeah. Sorry. Sorry, I just…
the music and ceremony and all that…it’s making me sentimental. Congratulations, though. On graduating.” He smiled sadly and I smiled sadly back. “You too.” “I’ll…well, maybe I’ll see you at the ceremony,” I said, with a shaky smile. He laughed bitterly. “I’ll go though. Sorry.” I turned. He reached for my wrist and pulled me close to him. He ran his thumb over the veins on my wrist near the base of my palm. His hands were warm and gentle, calloused. They felt so good. I exhaled heavily. It felt like so long since I’d been touched. “Hadley Arrington,” he murmured. I swallowed. He looked me in the eyes, pulled me close, and kissed me gently—his lips like a flutter of butterfly wings against mine. “Goddamn, I miss you.” He said. “I—I wish…” I didn’t know what to say. “Me too.” He raked his fingers through my hair, loosening the ponytail, cupping my chin in his hands. “Hey, be safe, okay?” “Yeah. I will.” He nodded at me, our eyes were locked, and I thought briefly that maybe we could salvage it. Maybe we could fix it. Maybe we could be whole.
I cried over Jack Diamond when I got home. Instead of crying at graduation, I cried over Jack. He was right to say goodbye then. I searched for his face, briefly, when we threw our caps into the air, when we turned out to meet our families, when people were crying from joy and sadness and possibly from colossal hangovers. I couldn’t find him. I clung to David, who couldn’t stop laughing. “We’re done, done, done, done,” he chanted. But later David clung to Justin, and they reaffirmed that they’d be able to make a long-distance relationship work, and my mother and Solomon went to the airport and my father came back over to help me with the last of my belongings. David’s flight to San Francisco was the following day. My dad waited in the hallway while I hugged David tightly and he started crying again. “No, no, no,” I said. “We’ve got to be happy. We’ll see each other. We will.” “It won’t be the same.” I kissed him on the cheek. “You’ll always be my best friend.” I gave him the cappuccino machine and tried not to burst into tears when he said: “Four years and it’s finally all mine!”
We drove to the airport. We had separate flights— my dad’s to Beijing and mine to New York and he hugged me at the gate. In a few days, I’d be in Syria and he’d move onto Tokyo before looping back to London. “I’m proud of you, kid,” he said gruffly, pushing a wrapped box into my hand, and disappearing towards the international terminal. I opened it waiting for my flight, thinking it would be a delicate piece of jewelry selected by his assistant. But it was a satellite phone. The perfect present. I took a breath and exhaled. I told myself I’d be okay.
“They’re sending us fucking babies now,” Kevin Dell said at baggage claim at the airport in Damascus. Judging from the airport, you wouldn’t know the country was at war. It was clean, and while there were armed soldiers, it didn’t seem much different from JFK. I knew it was Kevin Dell because I’d spent the last week memorizing the résumés of the three journalists I’d be working with. Kevin Dell was the most senior. 42, grizzled, Pulitzer Prize-winner, a leg full of shrapnel, a bad divorce in 2003, and more accolades than you could count. “Fucking babies,” Dell repeated. He was speaking to Chip Clark, the handsome Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer with a million dollar smile. “You Hadley?” Chip asked. “Yeah.” Kevin Dell extended a hand. I shook it. “I’m Dell. This is Chip Clark,” Dell said, knocking Chip in the stomach. Chip was thirty, somewhat of a prodigy. I’d seen his photographs before. They tended to be heart-stopping. We were just missing Erin, an experienced broadcast journalist who had grown up in Australia and broken several major stories about international corruption. “Let me grab your bag,” Chip offered.
“No, carry your own bag,” Dell said. He looked at Chip. “It’s not the fucking Ritz Carlton. Let’s not give her any ideas.” Chip smiled at that, and we walked through a series of metal detectors out into the bright, shining morning. I saw her sitting in the passenger’s side of the Jeep; Erin Phipps, in olive green pants, with a headscarf falling back from her blond hair onto her fine shoulders. She had a cigarette clenched between her teeth. She looked sort of like a movie star. I tossed my bag into the back of the jeep as Dell jumped into the front. “Christ, how old are you?” Erin asked in a raspy voice. She sounded kind of like a movie star too. “I told you. She’s a baby,” Dell said. “I’m twenty-two.” Erin nodded and exhaled a thin stream of smoke through her teeth. “Welcome to hell, kid.” Chip climbed into the back with me. “It’s not that bad.” “Don’t sugarcoat things,” Dell said. “We’re staying in Damascus, which is safe. We go out into the rebel-controlled cities every few days. Things have gotten a bit hairy the last few weeks. You don’t want to be caught outside of Damascus after dark.” I nodded. “Right.”
Chip looked out at the highway. We could’ve been anywhere. There were billboards, cars, no signs of unrest. I shifted uneasily. “Weird, huh?” Chip said, looking at me. “Sorry?” “It’s weird—how calm it seems,” he explained. “And like twenty miles away everything’s gone to hell.” I nodded. “Yeah. It is.” They didn’t give me much time to settle in before we went out to talk to a rebel commander. I left my stuff at the hotel, grabbed a tape recorder, a bottle of water, and a notebook and followed them back out for the day’s assignment. We drove out to Daraa. A military stronghold that was vulnerable to rebel takeover. It was an hour’s drive to Daraa. The world changed in an hour. You could hear firefights once you started heading south towards the strongholds. Erin and Dell were joking about the bombastic general we were going to interview and Chip occasionally snapped photos. “Take one of Hadley,” Dell suggested, watching in the rearview mirror. “Before and after she’s seen this fucking mess.” He grinned and snapped a photo. I was sure I
” Chip said seriously.” He nodded at me. He didn’t. His touch was utilitarian. . “Misogynist bullshit. glaring at me so I knew not to talk. We drove to the rebel commander’s offices.” Dell rolled down his window. “She’s new. I was the only one who was new. but said nothing else. something that he was handling for work.” I was grateful to have something to do. feeling relieved.” he said. We were ushered in wordlessly.looked uneasy. I pulled one on awkwardly. “Salaam. “What happened to the boy?” “Law school. “Put on a headscarf. The guard gave me a hard look but waved us through. Erin yawned. Chip snorted and adjusted it quickly.” Dell told me. The commander spoke in English. Dell had interviewed him before.” Dell said. Arrington. I settled back against the seat. speaking as deferentially as I could. Get used to it. “We’re coming up to a checkpoint. He studied at me suspiciously. like I was a camera. “Time to shine. The Syrian guard barked quickly for ID and I handed him our passports and press credentials. I turned on my tape recorder and waited for him to lapse into Arabic.
” “Anyone taking responsibility?” Erin demanded. no.” Chip shouted as we sped off. “No.” “What?” “Unconfirmed. he had nothing to do with his hands. “What’s up?” Dell asked. Erin thanked the commander for taking the time to meet with us and we started to go.Chip fiddled with his phone. “Two suicide bombers attacked a rebel stronghold. I didn’t understand what was going on until Chip was in the car. I’d never heard it so close. Having been told not to take pictures. “What’s going down?” Dell demanded. “Northwest corner of the city. We reached a smoking pile of rubble a short while later. and a few seconds.” “It can’t be the military. He was escorted from the room. turning to him. not that I can see. A screaming child ran past a crumbling wall in . I shivered while I heard the gunfire. He waved his phone at Dell and Dell nodded.” “Unconfirmed. unconfirmed. having asked nothing more than softball questions. People are saying ISIS or the military. “Bathroom?” Chip said.” “Where?” Dell asked. tapping out a text or email on her Blackberry.
trying to worry where someone that small would have to go for help in a place like this. . I closed my mind and just began to translate for them.” I nodded. “Focus.” Chip said quietly to me.the direction we had driven from. heads up now. Dell gestured to a distraught man who was motioning wildly at the destruction. “Seriously.
I couldn’t remember when my first week ended and the second one began. So.Chapter Forty-Four After the first day. Our Jeep was nowhere to be found. maybe just a few blocks away. On my third day. We worked in groups of two or four. I don’t know when we saw the girl die. and we’d found carnage. Chip and I were on our own. Just information. I certainly did not know what day of the week it was most of the time. a brief write-up on medical shortages in rebel-controlled regions. Increasingly. We had both begun to fear it had been stolen. Chip had no Arabic. I filed my first story on the second day. un-copyedited. I just started sending briefs to the New York office. They were folded into larger stories by practiced reporters based in New York and London. We were in the outskirts of a dangerous part of the city. We’d gone to chase down another story of carnage. I didn’t think anything could shock me. but too much gunfire for Chip to . and the gunfire sounded close. It made sense. Chip was swearing as darkness fell. It would be buried in the international section when it was printed. unspectacular. even if it left us without a more senior reporter. depending on what needed to be done. It all blended together. the sky was fading to gray. but Erin and Dell had enough to get by together.
“Yeah. We can’t just stand here.” “Did he say to do that?” I asked. And it had fucking vanished. though. the loud roar of the world in our ears.” He ran a hand through his hair. “We’ve got to move. “We’re not far. “What did he say?” “To move. “Listen.” he said. I fucking know. really . It was close.” “We’ve got to move.safely photograph it. we’ll try to get there. “Dell. Our car was stolen and we’re walking north along the city border…yeah. alright?” He shook his head. so we turned back for the Jeep.” Chip snapped. “Sorry. Alright. He breathed. “The whole city has gone to fucking hell. if we get split up or if I get hurt. thinking it couldn’t possibly come to that. breaking into a jog. past broken windows and crumbled houses.” He dialed and we walked north. “Didn’t we park it here?” I demanded. it’s Chip. “We’re meeting him at the edge of the ruins by the mosque. I heard the urgency in his voice and I started to run with him. I’ll call Dell. We started to hear shelling.” he said.” He pulled me left down a familiar street. just run to the ruins and get Dell.” He sighed. “I don’t know!” he screamed.” “Where?” “Just walk.
carrying her with him. hustling them down the same alleyway. It was so loud that it obscured the gunfire. broken body. I heard him urging them to run home as he unholstered a weapon. I knew immediately. shit. It was a narrow alley that went between two buildings and we could so easily be shot by a sniper from the rooftop windows. How much more fair would it have been if I were shot instead of her? . in a strangled whisper. seeing the that little girl die again and again as I ran.” I shouted. She fell to the ground. I ignored the gunfire. The father cried out and scooped up her tiny. shaking. “No.” I said.close. “Shit. She was dead. My ears rang. “Let’s cut through here.” Chip yelled. “Run!” We sprinted along the path that we knew.” “No. How old had she been? Five? Maybe six. I saw the blood blooming from the girl’s forehead at the same time as I heard the gunshot. grabbing at his wrist. let’s go the way we know. no. “It’s faster.” A man pushed two young children in front of him. howling even as he urged his son home.” He nodded at an alleyway. no. “Oh my god. We heard another shot and Chip ducked.
” He left us to go to Erin and work on their writeups. Dell didn’t say anything when we got into the car. “Hadley?” “I’m good. I ate with Chip. “Christ. We sat on the floor of his room. “Clark.” Chip said. he spoke.” Dell advised us. right?” I asked. Neither of us touched our food. we saw Dell’s Jeep. “It’s not going to do any . “Like six. Chip doubled over and threw up.When we reached the rubble at the square. Chip climbed into the back and swore incoherently as we sped down the bumpy road.” “Fine. When we reached the main highway. He shook his head. “You guys okay?” Chip didn’t say anything.” he said. I need to hear your fucking voice. “I don’t care what they report. which was messier than mine and covered in his jawdropping photographs. “How old do you think she was?” I asked Chip. If you could call it eating.” he said hollowly. “You two are off-duty tomorrow.” Dell swore again and punched the steering wheel and sped all the way back to Damascus. “Shut up. I’m fine.
and it’s not. 140 characters and all anyone had was bad news. like.” “I mean. The Arabic script blurred into one continuous stream. as I fell asleep at sunrise. I thought. Like. there’s so much bad shit going on. Knowing I could sleep in the next day made everything worse. “I’m serious. nobody—there’s not anything—that should be an atrocious thing.good talking about it. nobody will even care about—” “Shut up or get out. I had no fucking idea what I was getting into. I chose to stay up.” Chip said. I didn’t like being yelled at for trying to have a conversation I badly needed to have. reading through pages and pages of information on Twitter.” I got out. They were right . I can’t think about this shit. .
I couldn’t tell him a child had been shot and nobody had called the police or done anything because that was just one of the things that happened all the time here. at least I would have a record of her death. not a news story. but I told myself at least I would know that I had tried. but concerned: Hadley girl. He’d sent me eight and the latest was cheery. I wrote back to David’s emails. I wrote a short piece on it. I finished it and sent it to Dale. but I didn’t want to be alone. It would’ve been selfish to complain to him. but it’s twenty feet in the air.Chapter Forty-Five The day off was worse. knowing he’d say that it wasn’t something they could run in a national newspaper—it was just an anecdote. . Because I had to reckon with what we’d experienced. I didn’t want to see Chip. Love. so I can’t blame him! Hope you are safe. David I started the email four or five times. trying to fit the cruel and personal tragedy into an article that could run in a newspaper. those few seconds. that at least I had bothered to write something down. Are you ignoring me? It’s foggy here and wonderful and Justin is trying to change a light bulb and failing.
When I was twenty-two. and offered food. I’ll never know her name. There wasn’t much else to say. I let him come in.” I nodded in agreement. He knocked on my door. “I think they might evacuate us. Chip couldn’t stand being alone in the hotel any more than I could. Not really. “I mean. Maybe she was six. this is getting fucking crazy. I saw a five-year-old girl get shot. muttered a gruff apology for snapping.” he said. And I knew nobody got to decide how their life went. .something that gave one of so many victims a public record of death. Even if I didn’t know her name.
Erin was cold. Bloodier things. None of them invited closeness. Chip brittle. any second at all. A girl shot. A man executed. . squinting out into the darkness at the cities from which everyone vanished. It’s all horrible. One long night. Another journalist missing. you can’t tell the difference. A teenager bound and beaten and killed because someone repeated a story he told in his history class. The things that had grounded me in place. But I felt like I was vanishing. Neither did I. You can’t think about your mother and father when you’re screaming over the sound of shelling in a language you learned in quiet classrooms halfway around the world. keeping an eye on the door. too. because I was focused on what was happening. as we drove silently away from a horrific scene—same old story in a brand new place—I pressed my head to the window of the truck.Chapter Forty-Six I never thought about anybody in Syria. so you turn each horrible thing into a fact. Transcribing the story. I saw things worse than that five-year-old little girl dying. knowing that we might need to move at any second. Dell rough. Rumors of chemical attacks again. looking out for Chip. Eventually you stop putting things on the scale. Sadder things.
the routines I had. I should tell his parents how much he loved them. I told him I would. I had never told that to anyone. . But I wanted to trade it for him. when I didn’t even know I needed comfort. I remembered that he comforted me. like he was just out there. I watched the unlit buildings and land and I thought of Jack. David. beyond reach. they’d all disappeared. I would trade this for him. I would want someone to tell Jack Diamond that I had loved him. I realized that if anything happened to me. I wanted him. Chip had told me if anything happened to him. I was sure they already knew that. somehow. I remembered his warmth.the people I spoke to. I would trade this for nothing. He would never know if I died here. I missed him. my family. someone to hold onto at night when I wondered what the hell the point of anything was.
Having interviewed dozens of rebels across the country. and grabbed my flip camera and recorder and phone. We were on the road before 3 AM. Chip tossed me one of the gas masks from the glove compartment. pushing a can of Red Bull into my hand.Chapter Forty-Seven Chip grabbed me before dawn.” Chip shouted. and a jacket. we knew it was unlikely for such uniform stories to come out without attacks having occurred. Massive casualties.” Pierre was a French journalist who had reported on patients admitted to the emergency room with . Some doctors had told us that they had treated patients whose symptoms lined up with exposure to neurotoxins. I pulled my boots on. “Seriously?” “Pierre says it’s hot. We’d been chasing proof of chemical weapons attacks for weeks now. and he said we had to go. “Pierre says they’ve got real evidence now. on maybe two hours of sleep. “Take it.” “Evidence of what?” “Chemical weapons.” he said. but we’d found no other evidence to corroborate that and we couldn’t print stories other than ones that said Syrian rebels claimed to be attacked by chemical arms.
and then we saw it all. He shook his head. He said a couple thousand could die. Pierre had abandoned his camera and was talking rapidly to a doctor in French. The vomiting women and children coughing blood.” Chip said. “The patients are coming in now.” I said. We jogged towards the entrance to the emergency room. medics shouting over screaming patients. “We’re going to need to divert patients to facilities where . doctors restraining wild-eyed boys. He looked at me. “Yeah. “What the hell?” Chip said. “Where?” I asked.symptoms of gaseous poisoning a few months back. We trusted him.” Chip said. Rebels were hard to track down.” We parked in the dark near the hospital. “What the fuck is going on?” “We’re almost out of atropine. tiny bodies slumped against walls. but he hadn’t been able to confirm anything other than the doctors’ accounts. “It’s going to be grim if Pierre’s right. and if you could find them. They never knew who they were putting in danger. and we could see there was a lot of activity already. they might not want to talk. young men in danger of dying.” the doctor said. “In Ghouta. The last alleged attack had been in Adra.” “Jesus.
.they can be treated. “And I woke up. “Do you remember what happened?” “We were sleeping. sitting alone.” “What’s atropine?” I asked Pierre. He was crying softly. He nodded. in between huffing air from an oxygen mask.” Chip muttered. He was a child by my standards. I found a boy. if I was in danger of dying. It was hard for me to breathe too.” he muttered in English. The baby died. was dead. He had five sisters.” He went on. “Can I ask you a few questions?” I asked softly in Arabic. It felt that way—the way my heart was pounding.” he began. “It’s the antidote to Sarin. His father. softly. maybe thirteen. I panicked fleetingly. a rebel. and his two older brothers had joined the fight against Assad. my mother screaming that the baby wasn’t breathing. He started crying again. he told me. I looked around bewildered for someone who wasn’t too sick to talk. I closed my eyes and took a short breath. He lifted his camera and began to take pictures. wondering if the attack was ongoing. but an adult by the standard of this room. but it seemed impossible. “Holy fuck.
There were announcements being read over the loudspeakers: a list of names. A doctor came and shooed me away and I watched him. My heart dropped. We got out of the Jeep and closed the car doors. wrapped in white sheets were hundreds of bodies. “Do your brothers know where you are?” He shook his head. Chip found me in a hallway. “They want us out of here.” “What? Why?” “They want us out. wishing I had the resources to find his brothers. wishing I had the time to be heartbroken for him. Say we might get exposed and they’re running out of resources to treat people. but everyone needed help. Tears slid down his cheeks. and realized why. “I ran for help. We’re going to the mosque. It was still and silent in the square as the sun rose.“What’s your name?” I asked. child ones. . “Jabbar.” I bit my lip. trying to catch my breath. in neat lines. little infant bundles.” We followed Pierre out of the hospital and deeper into the city. And across the square.” “Did they get out? Are they here?” He shook his head. Normal adults ones. toddlers. and tiny. Jabbar. He pulled me by the arm. Jabbar’s baby sister died. They brought me here instead.
“You did good work. you’ve got authority to continue reporting. But we’re bringing you home. At the end of the long nightmare of that day.” Dale told us. We heard the heaviness in his voice over the speaker phone. It thudded against my chest. we’re pulling back to New York. Chip and Erin will go to Lebanon. but we’re moving you to Turkey. I thought I could do this but I knew then that I couldn’t. “We’re pulling you out. I couldn’t do this. The call I’d been waiting for. Arrington. Dell.” . we got the call we’d been expecting.I couldn’t do this.
But it was the third time they’d woken me and I’d dropped out of my bed and onto my knees.Chapter Forty-Eight A blare of sirens woke me. Harlem sirens. I bet you remember that.” I said. It doesn’t . “Tell me something about San Francisco. “Hey girlfriend! I’m so glad you’re back in New York. I think the Golden Gate is overrated. “What’s wrong?” he asked.” he trilled. “Nothing. “But I can see the Bay Bridge from my window. Just.” David had been more shaken than I had been able to be over the chemical attacks. I didn’t know how to make it make sense in my head and I’d stopped trying. I swallowed. “It’s cloudy. like I was expecting bullets to spray through the window. He might be awake. The kind of sirens you know not to worry about. I picked up my cell phone with shaky hands and called David. But the Bay Bridge is blue. New York sirens. I like the Bay Bridge. Red! And suspended.” I smiled. David. “Now we can speak on the phone. it’s so out there. Can’t sleep.” I told him. It was only one in the morning. out in San Francisco. I mean.” “Hey.
“Yeah. I’m really into that quality in a bridge. he said. He told me about the homeless man with the golden voice who hung out near his building and how he was going to visit Justin in a few weeks and then. too.” David told me.” I nodded. when he was sure I was good and calm. If you can’t sleep. I didn’t want to see anybody. so it’s my favorite. Hadley. You know?” I nodded. I was thinking maybe you should talk to someone about what happened in Syria.” “You’re not recovering from the flight. . I think it might help you. “Yeah.” Dale had given me the week off. I still think it’s jetlag.” I laughed. “Hey.” I smiled. I will. I’ll think about it. “It doesn’t matter. “It was only three months. “Yeah.” I laughed again.” David said. I just needed a few more days. “And it’s the one I can see from my window. It helped a lot. It was the fifth night in a row I’d called him. I wanted to get tough and get on with it. “I saw someone after what happened with Ben. if it keeps up.really want your attention. but demanded I take it. not just given it to me.
holding the edge of my desk. My wife says that helps. Are you okay?” “Yes. walking down the hallway to check if we were . “Do you have asthma?” I shook my head. “I think you’re having a panic attack.” he said.” he shouted. I couldn’t move. and then I thought maybe I was having a heart attack. "You sick?" I shook my head vehemently. “You two didn’t hear the drill?” the fire marshal demanded. I thought maybe it was asthma. “Jesus. “Hadley. I was mortified. and knowing both were impossible. I wished it were an actual fire and I was dying of smoke inhalation.” I managed. “Hold your breath for a few seconds then let it go. Dale recognized it when he walked past my desk. I stood. we had an unannounced fire drill. I had a panic attack. when I was starting to think I would be okay. you’re shaking. afraid I would collapse. I wished he'd left me. And sit down.Chapter Forty-Nine My third day back at the office in New York. let’s go. But I was paralyzed.” When I finally got my breathing under control. And then he took a closer look at me. I tried to keep quiet while everyone got up and left their desk.
You need help with that. “Yeah. okay?” Dale shot back. Humiliated as hell. He handed me a piece of paper.” “Look. Kid doesn’t like sirens. my face burning. Alright? You can’t handle it on your own. and write a fun story. I’m going to give you another week off.” He smiled. “Take off.all clear.” I said. The marshal looked from Dale to me and back to Dale. Dr.” I nodded. I will. “All clear. You don’t need to tell me about it if you don’t want to. Write about the fucking fall foliage in New England or some shit. Go to a dog park. He nodded. “Sorry.” he said. Don’t worry." he shouted out. “Don’t be. I had to get a grip. Jane Ferguson. But you need to call her. He shook his head. Dale leaned over my desk and picked up a notepad. see what she says. I nodded. Dr. “Give us a pass. See the doctor.” I shook from the adrenaline. I thought it was . She can help. Ferguson didn’t ask me that many questions. “Make an appointment. He scrawled a name onto it. I told her I was having panic attacks since Syria. I nodded again. packing up my stuff. to whomever was listening before he disappeared from sight.
I went back to Dr. staring at the bleak walls of my apartment. and I didn’t want to talk about it too much. I should decorate. I liked the story on dog parks. "I just wanted to see how you were doing. I wrote a story about dog parks. if it makes you feel any better. And I went for a few long walks. "I should be able to come into the office soon. and reach out to the people I knew here.temporary. She told me to take a Xanax when I felt one coming on and to come back in two weeks. I should go back to work. I heard a siren in the distance. "Don't rush it. I said I'd stick to the pills." I said tightly. I should decorate. "Yeah? That's good.” I smiled and swallowed. Chip's still ." I swallowed. put down roots." "I'm great. It helped at first. I took a Xanax. Dale called one afternoon when I was trying to figure out how to get my hands to stop shaking. And then it stopped helping. You could do a whole series. She upped my dosage and said I should try talk therapy. Ferguson. And when the phone rang incessantly at work and the edge of terror crept in. "Look." He was quiet.
I wanted Jack. "I have to go.” he said. I pressed my thumb as lightly as I could against his image. I realized. He was the only person who ever seemed to get me. that it was fear in the absence of danger. and he was the only person who I believed might get this. I scrolled to his number and to the picture I’d taken of him one morning when we were still together.on leave. “Nobody thinks any less of you for needing time to get over it. The sirens were coming up my block now. thinking about the subway and the East River.” The siren got louder. I'm not in danger. . I wanted Jack.” I dropped the phone and scrambled to the bathroom for my Xanax. either by the time the medication kicked in or by the time the sirens faded. to get all of me. too. that a panic attack was misinterpreting something that was harmless as danger. I knew I was supposed to ground myself in the present. When I caught my breath. It was a goofy shot of him sitting in his boxers on the corner of his bed with his hair standing up in sheer defiance of the laws of gravity. “Thanks for calling. I called him." I told Dale. It's just a noise. I took a breath and let it go. You guys saw some horrible shit. I was fine. I reminded myself.
Hadley. I didn't put it on speaker. I was going to work tomorrow. I needed to face it. I finally put the phone to my ear. I swallowed. . "Please leave a message at the tone. I heard the faint ringing buzz from my hand. it's Jack. Leave a message and I'll call you back. I wasn't getting any better staying inside. I didn't get his voice. like he didn't care who was calling. It was just the way he said it. easy and relaxed. tears blurring before my eyes. Get a grip." I swallowed hard on a thick lump in my throat. I couldn't even breathe normally. "You've reached the voice mailbox of Jack Diamond. I turned the phone off before the tone. I wanted it to go to voicemail and I wanted him to have the same message he had in college.I didn't lift the phone to my ear." a computer informed. I told myself. It wasn't funny or original at all. I needed to go out there. though. I could imagine him leaning back on a couch. But I didn't even know what that meant anymore. Hey.
" I opened my eyes. And a few months of real danger had changed all of that. I deleted your number. glancing at the clock. I'm good." "Yeah. His voice was like water. "Hadley?" I swallowed. For a fleeting moment I was transported back to Syria." I heard a grin behind the familiar rumble of his voice.. and pressed my hand and my forehead to the cold glass and closed my eyes.. I'm almost sure it was you. rubbing my eyes. It was like water when you've been thirsty. "It's Jack. "Well. I switched on a light and got to my feet. So. it was me. pulling myself up. the sudden arrival of danger. How long had I been telling people that? . "I saw you called." I walked to the window." I kept my eyes closed. to the early morning wake-up calls. I'm fine. "You okay? Did I wake you up?" "Yeah. "Hello?" I said. but you had the three threes." I said. It had only been a few months ago when Jack felt dangerous. I'm good. "Yeah.Chapter Fifty The phone rang around 11. I'm good.
Which I find disturbing. "They do." "Ah. "No.” I couldn't do anything but laugh at that. I'm teaching art. misdialed." "It does make sense." "Yeah?" I looked down at my socks and rubbed one against the other. Are you still at your Mom’s?" "No. I'm teaching at a charter school. "Was there a reason you called?" I smiled." I smiled. They’re like. I'd save the wow if I were you. sorry to wake you up then. "Sorry. no. "Why? I think that makes sense." "Brooklyn. "Well. I'm in Brooklyn. It sounds like I'm stalking you. Are you back in New York for now?" "Yeah. I identify with this person. here is a man who seems incapable of tying his own shoes and whose favorite subject doesn’t count. I'm in New York." He laughed. knowingly."I read all your stories." he said. actually. "So. I turned from the window." Brooklyn was close." "Well. actually. feeling the early fall chill on my neck. how are you?" he asked. "I bet the kids like you. Just. That's weird. Gotcha. I'll let you go." "Wow. stupidly sad that he was so much the same. when the line had gone quiet.” ." he ventured. "Yeah. yeah.
"Wait. I mean." I said backpedaling.. no. "Now?" he asked.. and a normal-looking white sweater. I didn't misdial. Okay.. "I can come over now. Where the hell had I ever gotten that? I put on a bra. "I’d really like that. I could hear his footsteps on the last flight of stairs. "If you want. I pulled off the stained. I realized I was still in sweatpants in a t-shirt with my hair in a mangled half-bun on top of my head. Maybe there never would be anything to say." About half an hour later.” "Give me half an hour." I closed my eyes. just maybe sometime.. Maybe there was nothing to say." he said. I pressed my thumb over the black button.no. neon-green t-shirt." I took a breath. "Wait." I didn't know what to say about Syria. "I miss talking to you." I said. "Oh." "Okay. They were steady. calmly. surprised at the stillness of the world." I nodded and swallowed. "Would you come—would you want to come over?" I asked. My . okay?" I nodded. The buzzer downstairs announced Jack's arrival. "Yeah. "Syria. I bit my lip.. And I brushed my hair back and braided it.
that you're back for good. I had been stupid not to. Maybe he'd changed a little. "Do . he was clean shaven. "No. too. He held me tightly." I searched for words." He nodded. "I mean. I was thinking…a lot. "Listen. Not at all." I said." I nodded. you look great!" He laughed and then he hugged me. I smiled.heart beat twice for every one of his steps.. I mean. I came up with nothing. really glad you called. Again. That was shitty." He paused. his hair was a bit shorter.. The doorbell rang." I shrugged. thanks. He had been right to worry. I shrugged. A stringer for a French paper died and. But they were great. they were scary. closing the door behind him." "Oh." "Oh. and he was wearing a soft white Henley instead of plaid. "I'm really. "Um. "Hey." he said. which looked as clear as they ever had.. I looked away. "Are you back for good? How was it? I read your articles and they were great." I met his eyes. He looked good. we're back for good. I hated thinking of you there. He walked into my apartment. It was.. "After the chemical attacks…It was getting pretty volatile when we left. It wasn't a normal kind of hug. Yeah. I smiled for practice and then I walked to the door and opened it. About giving you an ultimatum. "That's good.
"Do you want wine or anything?" "Yeah." he said quietly." "Well. "I..you want to sit down?" He sat on the couch. and his fingers lightly brushed mine. distantly enough that they didn't surprise me.. "It sucked. I walked to the kitchen. "Jesus. "I didn't deal with things so well when I came back." I paused. how's work?" he asked. taking one. He smiled. "I don't know what to say. It was about me wanting you to stay. I never should have gone. I glanced away from him. Still I frowned as they grew louder and then began to fade again. "Why are you on leave. I should've stayed. I swallowed and exhaled.actually I’m kind of on leave. "I never said that." he said. I heard sirens." I said. sure. You were right. I took another sip of my wine. focusing on the cold liquid. I shrugged." I smiled bitterly.exactly?" he asked . I'm sorry. Do you want to talk about it?" I shrugged. My hands shook slightly as I poured two glasses. sitting down on the couch. and then another." He didn't say anything for a moment.. um." I took a sip of my wine. He smiled. "So.. Shook even while I handed him one. "It was never about you being wrong.
" I sighed. I shrugged. "Sorry. What happened to you in Syria?" "I don't know. “Oh. "She was young. "Yeah.delicately. "Or something. though. I looked at him again. I bet you're regretting calling me back. "No. "I saw a little girl die. "In Syria. maybe six. She gave me Xanax." "I had a panic attack." I closed my eyes. It helps. The managing editor told me to take some time off." Jack was quiet. Sometimes. huh?" He shook his head." I lifted my shoulders helplessly.” "So what happened?" he asked." I ran a hand through my hair. I hadn't talked about Syria with anyone. "Sorry. I mean. You don't have to tell me if you don't want to. Not at all. "Are you seeing a doctor or anything?" I shrugged." I turned my head and looked out the window." I tried to say this nonchalantly. "There were chemical attacks. the bodies outside of the Mosque after the chemical attacks.” I nodded. I shook my head. trying to recall the particularly brand of ." "To you. During a fire drill. And then. not really." I looked at him. "The fire alarm just went off and I freaked out.
” "It's okay." He shook his head. "I have been okay. too." I said. "So. you know. "Yeah. wanted to tell you how much I regretted giving you an ultimatum. probably. “It’s okay. "I think about you a lot. My throat tightened up. a team of psychiatrists. Maybe I could be that for you. it's not really. I probably shouldn’t talk about it. “Sorry. which made it worse. listen. I could use. um. Well. I started to cry silently. How have you been?" He smiled. He rubbed his chin. I fucked everything up. "I don't know if you want to be my ." "Yeah. I brushed the tears away from my face roughly and took a breath. He put an arm around me. "I don’t know. I. “Hey." "I fucked everything up. hey." I told him.” he said comfortingly. finding that impossible." He smiled a bit sadly." He nodded. "But it seems like you could use a friend right now.” I took a few deep breaths. I exhaled. gave him a fake smile and took a breath." I met his eyes. I know that you can't be with me like I wanted—like I thought I needed. "No.desperation that had closed in. you know. We’re both responsible. warning me not to say any more. I wanted to say that maybe I could. I tried to clear it and." I was quiet.
Hadley." I sipped my wine again. That could work for me. "Okay." He rubbed his chin. "Yeah. I think. Hadley. we could be friends. if you . for courage. "Obviously. I remember. "I think that was the problem. "I don't want to be your friend. then I don't want to talk about it." He got to his feet and pulled on his coat. I remember." He looked at me. "You know. I mean. I stared at him. He exhaled. with a grin.friend. "Yeah. I don't want to be friends with you." He raised his eyebrows and shook his head." I said. and more fiercely and surely than I had said anything in a long time. "No benefits." I sipped my wine and decided to tell him the truth." "Do you?" "We really have to revisit this?" he demanded. "Would you say something?" he asked. "Jesus." I repeated. I got it." he said. I think I would like that. "What?" "No. "No. "Do you remember when you told me you loved me?" He cringed. But. I said it automatically. And if you don't want to be friends." I said.” "I don't want to be friends. He laughed. Fine." "I do.
. I still think I do. He looked stricken. Until I thought about. "I mean. "Never mind.. I was out with our photographer one night. more than anything. "Sometimes -most of the time. I won't tell you I love you. "In Syria. just listen." My voice wavered.change your mind. actually." he smiled wryly. I'm sorry." I took a breath. Give me a call. I didn't even know that. just a stolen glance. "You were saying something about a Jeep. But I loved you." I looked at him warily. “I . And I realized that if anything happened to me. "What?" I said. because I’m in love with you. and our jeep was stolen." I snuck another look at him. "How do you even know Chip?" "I don't." I looked at him. And." Jack said." He moved towards the door. I just saw you shared a byline and then I followed him on Twitter and then. And I believed that I didn’t. if I die right now. I didn't know what to say. I don't think." I bit my lip. And Chip told me—” "I'm really not a fan of Chip.” I bit my lip. “Jack. "Chip told me that I should tell his parents how much he loved them if anything happened. I do now. "I don’t want to be your friend. I never let it show. for what it's worth.never mind. I should have said that I loved you. I wanted you to know that I had loved you. But. he wouldn't know that I loved him and I do. I loved you but I told myself I didn't.
but I thought you should know. “I don’t know. you're probably completely over it." he said. "Shut up." He smiled and kissed me for a third time. a sound of relief. He kissed me again.. He smiled first. a happy laugh.. "Okay. “So. really like to have dinner with you. . "I was thinking. I still love you and not just most of the time. “What about your rules?” "C'mon. I was quiet. grabbed me by my wrists and pulled me close." Jack threw his head back and laughed. He looked so serious.I would really." he whispered.know.” he teased. teasingly. He walked towards me.” "I'm not over it. it was hard to believe we'd just admitted it to one another. All of the time. briefly. trying to keep my voice from wavering. He smiled. I got up to my feet and for some reason. "No way. "Okay. I was crying. "I meant it." I said." he said automatically. "So maybe we should pick up back where we started? Same rules?" I shook my head. when I blinked. I love you.. dinner?” I said." He kissed me softly." he said. barely at all.
“Anywhere. “Good. his lips shaking ever so slightly.I pulled my mouth away. "Have dinner with me. He bit my lip and I broke the kiss and caught my breath. "You free tomorrow?" "I could move some things around." . His mouth was warm and we'd left the lights on and he turned me. He kissed my forehead.” I closed my eyes again and he braced himself against the wall with his hands and kissed me again. yes. yeah?" I nodded. "Oh.” he said. I will have dinner with you. you can take me to dinner. “Good. "Maybe we could start with breakfast." he said." he said. walking me backwards towards the couch. pressing me against the wall. “Yes or no?" "Ask me out again?" "Don't push your luck. "I might have to think about it. though." I said. anytime.” He nodded. laughing." I smiled and grabbed his wrists." I said.” He kissed me again. but. “Yes. "Yeah." I said. “I should leave you hanging longer.
"Fact." "Mmm.." I said. Diamond." I smiled. "I told you that we should've met at the restaurant. "Junessa said that I was spelling my name wrong." "Oh. "Ask me that when I've had a chance to recover. imagining Jack surrounded by five-yearolds. "Let's go.Chapter Fifty-One In the end. he picked the restaurant and he insisted on coming all the way uptown just to go all the way back downtown with me." . "How was school?" "Crazy. I had the kindergarteners today.maybe you can carry all my boxes for me?" He raised his eyebrows. back down the stairs? Right after I came up?" I laughed. Not too bright. Mr." I smiled." "I had to pick you up for our first date." "We could've just met at the restaurant. Kids are psychotic. "You could just move." he said.. opening the door. I wasn't impressed." "Jack?" "No." We got into a cab and headed down to the West Village. "You have too many stairs.
"You freaking out?" "No. I smiled and shook my head. "Well. He was so damn handsome. you know. What did you do?" "I told her I'd made a huge mistake and that sparkles was definitely a letter. I bit my lip. “Affirmative. “Everything else. please don’t ever talk about the alphabet again." "Oh."They call you Mr. "She said I was spelling Diamond wrong because it needed to have sparkles. I wasn’t. "We’re going on a real date. “This is going to work. sparkles isn't actually a letter. and she started crying. God. strangely. Knowing he was here." I said." “What are you freaking out about then?” I laughed. But not about being on a date with you. "What?" "Nothing. He nodded." Jack said. really stare at him. right?” I asked." He nodded. Diamond?" "It's disturbing. I leaned against his shoulders.” ." I said smiling. kind of. Knowing that I could call him…it made everything that had seemed so hard seem a little bit easier. The kindergarten teacher was like.” Although.” I laughed and took a long second to stare at Jack. I know. And I told her.
I can walk. “You said you had Xanax?” I nodded. “And I was kind of obsessed with Wilbur.” I looked at him.” I didn’t want this to happen in front of him. And there was an organic pig farm.” He smiled.” He smiled. “What do you need?” he asked softly. I let him feel me shivering when the sirens started as we climbed the stairs. We were living in the city at the time. I didn’t want to seem like a total fucking head case in front of him. as I braced one hand against the wall. “So. He put a hand on my lower back. He nodded. “She gets panic attacks. “Upstairs. “Put your hands on top of your head.” he said. “You know. Not exactly the kind of place where you can see farm animals.I brought him back home with me. “Did I ever tell you about my pet pig?” I shook my head.” “What?” “Put your hands on top of your head. It helps with the breathing. I read Charlotte’s Web. But. We had reached the landing of the staircase.” he said. happy little pigs. when I was younger. And we were on the tour and they were showing us the baby pigs and there was a tiny one named Twister and the farmer giving us the tour said sort of dismissively that . he took my hand. “My mom. my dad took me out to New Jersey one day.
” “A pig named Twister.” He smiled. “And I had a pet pig.” He smiled.” “And you had a pet pig?” He smiled.” I looked at him.Twister was not likely to live to maturity and I asked what that meant.” He smiled. “And my dad. “I’ve got the pictures.” He smiled slightly. I got good at distracting my mom when she was getting upset. He kept talking as he walked to the bathroom and took down the Xanax and brought me a glass of water.” He nodded.” He had reached my couch and sat me down and locked my door. “I think he shelled out like three hundred dollars. He shrugged. like he was proud of himself. I felt calm. . “She liked when I talked about Twister. I had a meltdown and my dad couldn’t take it so he asked the farmer how much the pig would cost him. “So. he wanted to punch this farmer in the jaw for telling me that the baby pig was not likely to live to maturity.” “I want to see them. I don’t know. I could tell. “How did you do that?” I asked. “Um. He kissed me lightly. “I don’t need it.” He smiled. I felt fine. But he told me it meant the pig would die. right away. He handed me the water and the pill.
” He bit his lip.” “And I’m a head case. “About what?” “Me. I convinced myself I wasn’t.” He shook his head. you told me you loved me. “Yeah.“Are you really freaked out?” He looked at me. “Why would I be freaked out?” “Because I’ve turned into kind of a head case. Because I thought—I don’t know.” I shook my head. “And I love you. “You’re gorgeous. “But I was being an idiot. “No.” My eyes filled.” I said throatily.” “We both still are. And it was all I wanted to hear.” He shook his head. But I pretended it wasn’t.” He kissed me. He ran his hands down my body. “I’m sorry. “For what?” “For being selfish.” I smiled. He smiled. “I’m not freaked out.” he said.” he said. He wrapped an arm around me.” “Listen.” . I keep trying to figure out what I was trying to protect myself from and it doesn’t make any sense. “You did what you needed to do. We were both young.” I said. “I hurt you.
Right?” he looked at me. “They had a lot to do with our parents. things aren’t that black and white.” He met my eyes. because we fixed it. right? I saw my Mom’s life shatter because she married someone with a dangerous job who couldn’t give it up. this is still kind of a mess.“No.” I said. too. we both made promises to ourselves when we were young. And when you hesitated. I wouldn’t compromise. “We fixed it?” I smiled.” “It’s on both of us. And I said. “And you promised yourself you were never going to give anything up for love. “And I don’t care. it is. “Jack. “But you…” “I’m sorry. “Yeah. You promised yourself you wouldn’t fall in love. because it never worked out for your parents. “But I fell for the girl with a dangerous job and you fell in love and we both decided we needed to keep these stupid promises we made to ourselves when were kids instead of growing up and realizing. “If I’d listened to you. I fucked up. I nodded. This is not on you.” He grabbed my hands and laced our fingers together. I wouldn’t have pushed you so hard so fast. right?” He looked at me.” He said.” . I’m never going to do that to my wife and I’m never going to fall for a girl that would do that to me.” I shook my head. But I wanted to know after two months whether you’d give up your dream for me. basically.” “Right.
” I said. I would end up getting hurt and feeling stupid. “I love you. “Yeah. I love you too. He pushed his forehead to mine. But we know that now. I wanted to keep saying it. “We’re going to be okay.” “I was afraid that if showed that I loved you. And I ended up getting hurt and feeling stupid. But nobody does. Unpleasantly scary. “You don’t have to explain. “You really don’t have to . “You’re going to be okay. “I know. You know? And we shouldn’t hurt ourselves in the meantime.” “I know. I did the opposite.” I nodded.” I smiled. I knew that saying I loved him wasn’t going to break me this time. “We both thought we could avoid it.“Right. “I was afraid. He kissed the top of my head.” he said.” I kissed him again.” He laughed. Bad shit happens. I love you.” He met my eyes steadily. “I mean shit happens. It had been scary the first time. So. “I love you. To everyone.” I nodded. I knew it would save me.” “Yeah.” he smiled back.” He pulled me into his lap and I wrapped my legs around his waist and kissed him hard.” I said again. I love you. I wanted to say it. but it wasn’t now.
I loved that he had put it out there back in March. when he was pretty sure I was going to shoot him down. like they were the center of the world. and how sure he was. Of letting it show anymore.” “I’m not afraid though. I loved that he noticed me. I loved that he never told me to smile or to stop being so serious. curled in my tiny apartment in Harlem. I’m not afraid of letting my love show. I was going to let it show forever. . I loved how he talked to people. the person I was madly in love with. I couldn’t really stop. I loved him. I loved how sweet he could be.explain. I loved that he knew me better than I knew myself. I realized that I had never been safer than I was. It’s okay. I loved that after all that time of thinking love wasn’t safe. I loved the way he laughed. I’m afraid of not showing it. how he cocked his head when he was looking at me. It turned out to be easy to let it go.” I said. I loved the way he held my wrist and kissed the palm of my hand. Hadley. the way his hair stuck up in the morning. with Jack Diamond. That once I started.
And he’s a puppy.” Hadley said.” she said. People were suffering there. At the time.” Soon she’d be leaving for three weeks to go to a Syrian Refugee camp just across the Jordanian border. Hadley saw everyone’s suffering clearly. It would be her second trip. “Why not? I like him.” “Because we live in New York.Epilogue Jack. “I don’t need as much exercise as a mastiff. She’d gone for just five days a few months back and written an article that just about everyone in America had read. I had wished I could agree with him. I knew nothing could be further from the truth. And this time.” “I want a mutt.” Hadley said. Seven Months Later “We are not getting a Mastiff. And I’m going to be the one who ends up walking it in the morning. “A mastiff would look good on our couch. but they were safe. And she knew how to write about it. After Hadley had walked away the night of our formal. Hadley wouldn’t be in danger of dying. when I wanted to hate her.” I looked over at her and smiled. Xander said she was the world’s most emotionless bitch. The refugee camps were stable. she wasn’t scared to go. She saw it perfectly. But even then. She gave . “I want a small mutt with an anxiety disorder who speaks Arabic to keep you company when I’m in Jordan.
I laughed. The placard on her cage said she was about two years old and . David and I might have been the only people who really saw that part of her in college. Her phone rang and she pressed it to her ear. We’d just signed a lease together on an apartment in north Chelsea. “David!” I could hear his laughter through the phone and I walked up behind her and kissed the soft part of her neck and she smiled and elbowed me in the hip.” I said to her.it a name and a face and a story you could understand. girl. And Hadley wasn’t freaked out about that at all. I smiled at the dog. The bedroom was microscopic. I want a mastiff. It was only a few steps away from the subway and it was ours. She looked terrified. But it had a kitchen you could use and a decent view. She pointed at a nervous looking dog that was sitting in the corner of its cage. She had a white medallion on her chest and curly speckled ears and black fur and big mournful eyes. But when you read her articles. It was on the eighth floor and the building didn’t have an elevator.” She shook her head and walked further into the animal shelter. “Hey. and I gripped the front of my cage with my fingers. you knew. “I don’t want Hadley 2.
” “Yeah. but that’s not happening…” She laughed.” “That’ll be fun. seriously…. nodding at the dog.” I said. She’s perfect. she’s adorable. yeah.No.” Hadley said softly. I know. “Is David coming to visit?” She nodded. but housebroken.” Hadley told David. In June. Justin. but you both will fit….” I said again. “Yes. though. Hadley ended her phone call with David. right?” I asked.” I said. “Yeah.shy.” She leaned her head on my shoulder. She nuzzled up against my hand and sat down.” “Do you want to get her?” I asked. “We’re getting a dog. he wants a mastiff.” “No. so any time after that is great for us…the apartment is the size of a postage stamp. “I thought you wanted the mastiff. “What do you think about Avery?” I asked. I get back at the end of May. trying to coax her out of the corner. too. “Hey. “Don’t you like her?” she asked me.” I looked down at the shy mutt and smiled at her. It’s insane…well. “Yeah. “I do like her. “But. . smiling when she approached my hand cautiously. too. Only if you’re sure. Hadley smiled. “Don’t you think?” “Yeah. “Yeah.” “You like her.
” “I like her too. “Hey. wrapping her fingers around mine.” Hadley said. She put her hand up against the cage too.” The dog turned her attention to Hadley and I smiled. . She looked up at me.“Avery. Avery. I like that. I met her shining eyes and she mouthed the words I’d gotten used to hearing: I love you. “She likes you. “Let’s get her.” Hadley said.” I said.
Table of Contents LOVE SHOW Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty-One Chapter Twenty-two Chapter Twenty-three Chapter Twenty-Four .
Chapter Twenty-Five Chapter Twenty-Six Chapter Twenty-Seven Chapter Twenty-Eight Chapter Twenty-Nine Chapter Thirty Chapter Thirty-One Chapter Thirty-Two Chapter Thirty-Three Chapter Thirty-Four Chapter Thirty-Five Chapter Thirty-Six Chapter Thirty-Seven Chapter Thirty-Eight Chapter Thirty-Nine Chapter Forty Chapter Forty-One Chapter Forty-Two Chapter Forty-Three Chapter Forty-Four Chapter Forty-Five Chapter Forty-Six Chapter Forty-Seven Chapter Forty-Eight Chapter Forty-Nine Chapter Fifty Chapter Fifty-One .
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