“Thanks, E.” She leaned back in the car and waved her fingers at him like she was casting a spell. “I’ll text you Elle’s phone number later.”

“No, SHE WON’T,” I said loudly.

Chelsea laughed as she swung the door shut and turned to me, wrapping one arm around my shoulders in a fierce hug. “I did that for you, you know. The whole vomit thing. It was to get you two together.”

“Likely.” I struggled under her weight and aimed us toward the stately southern mansion’s front door. “But you did it very well. The vomiting was perfectly executed.”

“I thought so,” she said modestly. “I’ve been practicing.”

I planted an affectionate kiss on her blonde curls and left her side, getting to the door first and punching in our passcode, holding my finger to my mouth to indicate that she should stay quiet. It was after curfew, so house noise was required to be at a minimum. We tiptoed in and waved silently to a cluster of girls in the den, under blankets, with the television quietly playing. Moving down the wood hall, we headed to the open sleeping porches at the back of the house, the beds reserved for any sister who needed a place to crash after too much studying or partying.

“Goodnight.” Chelsea fell, face-first, on the closest bed. I carefully extracted her phone from her back pocket, plugged it in beside her, and patted the top of her head.

“Night.”

3

Summer came and Easton North stayed, like a final Girl Scout cookie you keep in the box, debating over the right time to finally pull it out and eat it. I wanted to eat him. God, I wanted to pounce on that tall athletic frame and wrestle him to the ground. Devour that adorable smirk.

But I didn’t. Out of a misplaced respect for Chelsea, who was tits deep in Jersey trash, and a wariness of all men after Jonah’s betrayal—I stayed as far away from Easton North as I could. During the school year, it would have been easy. Thirty thousand bodies allowed for easy avoidance, which is how I didn’t know about Jonah’s hookups until three months into our relationship. But in the summer, campus became a smaller place. Faces became familiar. Parties were more intimate. The inevitable bump of Easton and me happened, again and again, like discarded rafts along a shore.

A house party. Red solo cups in hand, chants filling the air, a chug-off in progress, my hip collided with his. I turned to apologize, then saw Easton and laughed. He moved closer, and I stepped away. “We’re just leaving!” I called out, over a Bone Thugs song just ancient enough to be cool. Turning my head, I looked for my roommate as proof I wasn’t alone.

He made a face and lifted his cup, draining the contents, his eyes staying on me. The baseball hat was still present, but turned around, tufts of hair sticking out from its clip, his light blue eyes on full display. “I know why you laughed!” he called as I went to escape, my flip flops clipping toward the door.

I glanced back and paused.

He lifted the empty cup and crooked his top finger, beckoning me closer. Such a player. So much confidence in that cocky smile. He knew I’d come. Knew I’d let him lean in and whisper whatever bullshit he was about to say. He knew that no girl could resist those bedroom eyes and perfect build.

By some Herculean feat of will, I turned and left, squeezing through the crowd, my hand tightening on my cup as some of the warm Coors Light splashed out. I left and, sadly enough, Easton North didn’t follow.

The library. My pencil jittered along the page, 10mg of Adderall doing their job as I scribbled notes at a furious pace. The chair next to me creaked into motion, its feet wheezing along the carpet as someone pulled it out.

I finished the section and set down my pencil, reading over my notes and attempting to memorize the rules of binomial distribution. Closing my eyes, I moved through the steps in my mind, trying to picture each line in the textbook.

Something light tapped at my pinky fingers, and I opened my eyes and stared down at my hand.

It was a ripped piece of paper, folded in half. A note. I glanced to my right and saw him there, a worn green Jansport beside an open composition pad, his eyes crinkled at the edges with humor. His gaze dropped to the note and mine followed suit. I unfolded the paper and squinted at the cramped but neat handwriting in blue ink.

Tell me why you laughed and I’ll leave you alone.

There was a line drawn below the promise, a blank waiting to be filled. I let out a dramatic and exasperated sigh and leaned forward, using my pencil to fill in the blank.

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