Isn't She Lovely Page 50

Her eyes find mine, and they’re filled with tears. “I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

Chapter Seventeen


“You do know we’re only going to be gone for a couple of days?”

I glance over my shoulder. Ethan’s leaning against the door jamb of my bedroom, wearing blue plaid shorts and a coordinating blue polo. I swear to God, he’s more color coordinated than any of my girlfriends from high school.

I turn back to the bed, where I’m setting all my clothes into piles. It’s a blatant visual representation of the last couple of months: brightly colored piles for fake Stephanie, black piles for old Stephanie.

I fold a pair of freshly washed black pants and set it in the old-Stephanie pile. I frown a little as I realize I’ve stopped thinking about my old stuff as the real-Stephanie pile. Before meeting Ethan, I was so sure about who I was. But the thought of going back to the way I was—skulking around campus, studying film so I don’t have to interact with people …

It’s lost some of its appeal.

Ethan wanders into the room like he owns the place—which he does—and picks up a tiny pink thong with two fingers, raising an eyebrow. “Thought you didn’t like pink.”

I snatch it back. “Go play with your own underwear.”

“Not nearly as interesting,” he says as he inspects a pair of green polka-dot boyshorts.

I don’t bother to stop him, sensing that it’ll be a losing battle. Ever since that night on the couch, the mood between us has alternated between easy and loaded with sexual tension.

I’m still not sure what the hell happened. But I’m definitely sure how it ended.

To borrow his friend Andrea’s words, we definitely did not consummate.

He sits on top of the pile of clothes I’ve just finished folding and looks at me. He doesn’t say a word. Just studies me.

“What?” I snap.

“Did you do it?”

“Do what?” I’m not proud of playing dumb, but sometimes it’s reflexive.

“You know what.”

I take a deep breath and spend way too much time folding a pale yellow cardigan so I won’t have to look at him.

“I wrote an email,” I say finally. Quietly.

“Good.” His fingers brush along the back of my hand, and I take a long, shuddering breath.

“What if he doesn’t write back?”

I meet Ethan’s eyes then, and they hold the same gentle understanding that was there when I told him my secret.

That I don’t know whether or not I am a virgin.

I didn’t mean to tell him, or anyone. But then I got lost in his kisses and I wanted—needed—him to know.

And then I started talking …

The real kicker is that I didn’t want to go to that stupid party in the first place. I wanted to stay in the hospital with my mom.

But she wanted me to go. She was too weak to push the issue, but my dad wasn’t. He told me it was important to my mother to see me happy. To see me living my life, even as hers was ending.

So I went. But I was mad, and sad, and lost. I had more drinks than I should have, but not so many that I didn’t realize the last rum and Coke tasted faintly bitter. I set the cup aside almost immediately, but it was too late. The dizziness followed soon after, and in those last lucid moments I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I just wanted to lie down somewhere. Anywhere.

My eyes found Caleb, and I knew. Knew that he knew what was in my cup.

I woke up in Caleb’s bed, barely managing to get my head over the side of the bed before throwing up all over his white carpet.

I retched again and again as I tried to clear the cobwebs and piece together what had happened. Why I was naked. Why I was so hung over after a few drinks.

Caleb came in then. I expected him to lose his shit over the fact that I’d thrown up on his bed, on his floor, but he didn’t seem to see it.

Then I saw a phone in his hand.

My phone.

I raised my eyes to his face, and I knew. Knew that he’d answered my phone.

Knew that it was my dad calling.

Knew that my mother was dead.

And then I retched again.

It was the first time I’d talked about it. Ever. I’d never told anyone what happened. I mean, of course I was a zombie after it happened, and of course everyone noticed. I’d just lost my mother. I was entitled to be a zombie. Nobody suspected that there was anything else to it. That I’d lost more than Mom that night.

Well, Caleb knew.

It may sound odd, but I’d never really considered Caleb in all of this. On some level I suppose I hated him, but on another it was like he wasn’t even a person. He was just this demon in my past that had sort of been absorbed into the bad memory that was that night.

But Ethan wasn’t inclined to let Caleb off that easily.

After I told him the entire sick story, I expected him to give me a condescending hug and then tell me that it sucked and that it was time to move on.

And he did give me a hug, but I didn’t expect the next words out of his mouth.

You’ve got to find Caleb, Stephanie. Confront him. Get answers. You deserve answers.

I guess it’s weird that I needed someone else to tell me this, to point out that the worst night of my life doesn’t have to be shrouded in mystery.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Caleb will remember, or that he’ll be honest with me. But deep down I suspect that he will. We cared about each other once. And I’m pretty sure that at one time he even loved me, before he heeded the siren call of booze and drugs.

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