Page 48 of Hot Mess

Damn it.

***

“The box will be with you tomorrow. I put it on two-day shipping.”

“Thanks, Em,” I said, putting the phone on the counter for a moment while I opened the fridge. “Send me the invoice, okay?”

“No,” she replied, the line crackling with her laughter. “Are you really staying there a month?”

“Yep.” I pulled water from the fridge and picked it up again as I headed for the back deck. “It’s nice here. It’s quiet. It’s private. The people are great. I think it’ll do me some good to have some time away from everything.”

“What about your apartment?”

“I’m not sure. I’m already paid for the next month, so I think I’ll make a decision about what to do then. I might feel differently then.”

“Okay. You don’t have to come back for us, you know that, right? Besides, I’ll take an excuse to visit the Florida Keys. Ben can’t say no, then.”

I smiled, sitting cross-legged on the sofa. “Ah, I see. You’re using me.”

Emily laughed, tossing her hair over her shoulder. “I want you to be happy, Elle, and if you’re finding happiness there, then that’s where you should be.”

I glanced over toward Theo’s house. “Like I said, there are great people here.”

“Oh, my God. Have you already met someone?”

“Oh, stop it.”

“Elle!”

I sighed. “Look, it’s not what you think it is. He owns the place I’m staying in and his daughter is obsessed with me.”

“He’s a single dad?”

“A British one.”

“Lord above, I think I just fell for him. You know those are my favorite books in the world to read.”

“Yes, I’m aware,” I said dryly. “We got off to a rough start, but we get along really well.”

“So? What’s happening? You’re literally living a romance novel.”

I should have kept my mouth shut. “Not a lot is happening, so get your head out of the clouds. He has a child to think about, and I have an entire life away from this place. It’s not that simple, but we’re just kind of… rolling with it.”

“So you’re screwing him.”

“I am not sleeping with him, no.”

“Why not? At least get laid if you’re going to come back here.”

I rolled my eyes at her. “Emily.”

“As your big sister, I fully give you permission to bang the hot British guy all the way back to England.”

“Well, thank you for that. So noble of you.”

She grinned. “I know. What about friends? Do you have friends there?”

My mind flashed to Blaire. “I’ve met a few people, and you would love them. Blaire is basically you but two years younger.”

“Another me? Can I come down now? I’ll leave Amelia with Ben!”

“No, you won’t. She’d never forgive you if you came to see the World’s Best Aunt without her.”

“True. I really am glad you’re finding some peace there. You deserve it.”

I smiled.

“I included your phone in the box, by the way. I know you’re avoiding social media, but you should check your emails.”

“Why?”

“Because there are a lot of people on your side, Elle. Far more than all the assholes who think you’re lying. Some of the people you’ve worked with have come out and said they stand by you unquestionably, and you were trending on Twitter along with revenge porn and your own hashtag for like eight hours last night. In fact, I think you might still be there. Some of the other vloggers grouped together to start the hashtag.”

I frowned. “Really? It made that much of an impact?”

“Honey, I know you’ve been ignoring everything outside your bubble, but yes. Your video was heartfelt and honest, and people believe you. They’re supporting you. Want me to pull together screenshots and send some over?”

“I’m kind of enjoying the detox, to be honest.”

“Okay, but you should know that your video has twenty million views already. You’re literally a superstar right now.”

“Great,” I muttered. “Sure, send a few screenshots.”

“All right. Look, I gotta go, Amelia is trying to ride the dog again. I’ll talk to you later.”

“See you later.” I wiggled my fingers at the screen and hung up, then put my phone face down on the sofa.

I had no idea the video would matter that much—that people wanted my side of the story.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, breathing in the sea air. There was something about the coast that was completely calming. It kind of seeped into my bones and relaxed me, making me feel somewhat normal.

Normal.

Did normal exist anymore? Would I ever have any kind of normalcy in my life ever again? Was that possible after this?

Even if I were to go back to school and shut down my channel, would anything change for me?

I didn’t need to ask the questions, not really. I already knew the answer. I knew I would forever be attached to this scandal, that my life would never go back to how it was before.

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