I shrug. “I try to.”

Except that it’s not like I’m going to say I can’t stop thinking about how beautiful you are.

“But sometimes, less is more.”

“I thought that rule only applied to plastic surgery and douche capes,” Nora challenges.

“What the heck is a douche cape?” I must know the answer to this.

Nora grins, obviously happy to lay on me her knowledge of whatever a douche cape is.

“You know those shirts that men wear that are covered in rhinestones and big crosses? The ones that are always too tight and the men wearing them are always too greasy and look like they just shot up steroids in the bathroom?”

I don’t even try to stop my laughter.

She tilts her head and lifts up her hand. Her index finger touches the tip of my nose and she giggles. What an odd but adorable gesture.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

And I do. Thank God I’ve never worn one, but half of the guys at my high school did. Her description is spot on, and thinking about it again makes me laugh even harder.

“I do,” I admit.

She smiles again, and when she closes her mouth, her lips look like a heart, full and plump, and pink.

“Do you want to help me decorate the cake? After what you said, I made one for your friend downstairs. Everyone should have a cake on their birthday,” Nora says, kindness dripping from her words like honey.

I love that she would make a cake for Ellen, even though she spent her entire day at work baking and having a shitty day.

“That’s so amazing of you!” I say with a smile. Then add, “When’s your birthday?” I don’t know why I just asked that.

“Next week, actually. But if we are going to be friends, you have to promise me something.” Her voice is lower now, serious even.


“You won’t ever, ever do anything for me for my birthday.”

What a weird promise to make.

“Um, okay?”

She shifts in the chair and stands up. “I mean it. No cards, no cakes, no flowers. Deal?”

Her eyes are dark and her lips are pulled tight.


And with that, she nods, letting me know she’s happy with my agreement. Instantly the tension that had filled the room dissipates.

I don’t know why she’s requesting this, or if she’s joking or not, but I don’t know her well enough to pry. If the day comes when we’re close enough for her to tell me, I’ll gladly listen, but I get the feeling that there are very few people that know anything about this woman.

“So, what color do you think we should go with?” Nora goes to the farthest cabinet lining the wall.

I’ve never even opened that cabinet before; maybe that’s why I didn’t know it was full of food.

Nora pulls out a bag of powdered sugar and a little box with a rainbow on it. Food coloring

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