so reluctant to go over past history. I would’ve been excited, grateful, happy. Now it just feels weird. It doesn’t quite settle the way that it should.

Dakota hasn’t answered me yet, and her words already feel somehow stilted as her eyes scan the room and her chest fills with a breath too deep to hold good news.

“Can I have some more water?” she asks, keeping her response to my question to herself.

I nod and get up, meeting her eyes one more time in hopes for an answer. Half of my brain tells me that I should ask again, that I should make sure she doesn’t want to change the status of our relationship. Would we fall back into old routines so easily? How many days would it take before she’d be effortlessly falling back into my arms, forgetting about her need for independence and adventure?

I grab her glass and once in the kitchen open the small drawer next to the fridge where the Tylenol is. If her hiccups and stumbling steps are any indication of how much she’s drunk, she won’t be feeling so hot in the morning. I open the bottle and dump three into my hand, then fill her glass with more water. In the sink is a cake pan. On the counter next to it, the elaborate tiered cake with purple icing and flowers Nora and Tessa made earlier.

Nora has left traces of herself all over my apartment.

I debate whether it would be worth it to eat a piece before I go back into the living room to deal with Dakota. Or I could cut one for each of us. I doubt that she’d eat it, though, with her strict diet and all. I lift up the corner of the plastic wrap and dip my finger into the icing.

Dakota walks into the kitchen just as I shove my finger between my lips.

Shit.

“Really, Landon?” Her lips lift into a smile and I lean against the counter and face her. She looks at the cake, then back at me. All I can do is shrug and smile.

I grab the glass of water and hold it out to her. She inspects it for a moment, thinking of something to say, I’m sure. Dakota’s lips press to the side of the glass and I move back toward the delicious cake.

“You always had a serious sweet tooth.” Her voice is warm and delicious like the icing on my tongue. “It was irresistible.”

“There are a lot of things I never could resist.” I look at Dakota and she looks down at her bare feet.

With my fingers I tear off a small corner of the cake. Little pieces of it break off and a chunk of icing drops onto the countertop. I look at Dakota and try to lighten up the conversation.

“At least now I work out,” I joke.

I was a pudgy kid, always a little thicker in the middle than the other kids. I blame my mom’s baking and my own laziness about going outside to play. I remember wanting to stay home, like actually wanting to be inside my house on the weekends, with my mom. I ate a lot of sweets and I wasn’t as active as I should have been for my age, and when my doctor talked to my mom about my weight, I was embarrassed, and in that instant I knew that I never wanted to overhear a conversation like that again. I still ate what I wanted to, but I became more active than before. I was a little shy about asking my aunt Reese for help, but once I did, she came over the next day with an exercise bike in her trunk and little weights in her hands. I remember laughing at her eighties-style pink-and-yellow workout outfit complete with matching arm warmers.

Despite how absurd we looked exercising together, she and I got healthy. My mom joined in, too, just for the fun of it, though she had always been in good shape. Reese was always more plump than my mom, but she became a machine and we both lost weight together. My aunt was happy that she could finally fit into some dress that she had been eyeing for a year at some expensive store, and I was just happy not to have the extra weight on my body, making me self-conscious.

I felt great for a while and Dakota began to notice that the chubby boy next door wasn’t so chubby anymore. The problem was that my weight loss wasn’t good enough for my peers. I lost too much weight and didn’t put on any muscle, so that’s when the “Lardy Landon” name-calling switched to “Lanky Landon.”

First I was too fat, then too skinny. Nothing I did would please those bullying assholes. And as soon as I stopped trying to, my life became easier.

“What are you thinking about?” Dakota asks; her hand is warm now as she wraps her fingers around my wrist and lowers my arm to my side. Her body presses against mine and she leans her head on my chest. She takes another drink of water and sits the cup down on the counter.

I haven’t responded yet, I’m aware of that. I just don’t know what to say other than reposing my question about whether she wants to get back together.

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