Isn't She Lovely Page 51

It took all of thirty seconds on the Internet to find him. He’s at Boston University, which I knew, of course. He sent me about a dozen messages our freshman year asking if we could talk, all of which I ignored. And he tried to get in touch through Jordan and the handful of other high school friends I kept in contact with. I ignored those efforts too.

But this is the first time I’ve sought him out. I was expecting a rush of anger, but mostly I just feel curious. Jordan told me he’s clean now. That he’s reverted back to the “nice guy” he was before the Jack Daniel’s and pills and shit took over his life.

If his online profile pictures are any indication, Jordan is right. Gone are the red-rimmed eyes and bloated face I remember from the end. Instead he’s clean-cut and handsome. Not unlike Ethan, actually—blond, blue-eyed, and totally preppy.

I don’t know how long I stared at his smiling face, waiting to feel some sort of emotion. Mostly I felt relief. And a hope that maybe Ethan is right, that I can move on.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Ethan asks, yanking me out of memories.

I give a little smile and shake my head. “I think I’m all talked out on that topic, you know?”

He searches my face. “But when he writes back, you’ll tell me.”

I meet his eyes. “I’ll tell you.”

I don’t have a choice. Not if I want Ethan to touch me. Because he made it very clear that night when he gently set me away from him and slowly pulled his own T-shirt over my head to cover me that he won’t touch me again until I have closure.

You deserve more, Stephanie. You deserve everything.

And in that moment, whatever I was feeling for this all-wrong-guy exploded into something I absolutely, positively do not want to name. Can’t name.

Because a few days from now I’ll have fulfilled my end of the bargain. Ethan will have survived this stupid party and can move on with his life. Maybe get a real girlfriend instead of an impostor.

My stomach clenches at the thought.

“Okay, Goth, one more time. Why is your entire wardrobe on your bed? I did mention that this is just a two-night thing, right?”

I swat at his hip until he shifts and I can pull a couple of now smashed bras out from under his ass. He doesn’t look twice. I can’t blame him, I guess. I mean, they’re some boring blue cotton affairs. But it’s another reminder that he hasn’t made a single romantic move since that night on his couch.

I know why, of course.

But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Damn Caleb.

And damn myself for being such a chicken for the past three years that I didn’t seek answers. Hell, worse than that, I actually avoided them. I was like those weird birds that stick their head in the sand.

No more. I want my dignity back. I want my life back.

I gesture toward a smaller pile of clothes on the desk chair in the corner of the room. “That is for the trip. I just haven’t put it in my bag yet.”

He gestures toward the piles on the bed. “Then what’s this?”

I lift a shoulder. “Figured while I was packing for the trip, I may as well start packing for good.”

Ethan freezes in the process of inspecting my bras. (Guess he isn’t so immune after all.) “What do you mean, packing for good?”

“Come on, smart guy, you’ve got this,” I say, keeping my tone light. I shouldn’t be glad that he sounds upset, but I am getting a little rush because he’s clearly not happy to get rid of me.

“Fall semester doesn’t start for two weeks,” he says.

“You’re on fire today with the observations,” I say, going to the closet and pulling out the huge duffel bag I purchased a couple of days ago. I have about four times as many clothes as when I moved in, thanks to Ethan’s shopping spree, and he insisted that I keep them. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with all of them, unless I decide to take on a career as a life-sized Barbie, but I’m not ready to part with them either.

Ethan’s all up in my face, taking the bag out of my hand and holding it out of reach. “I never said you had to move out as soon as the party was over,” he says. “Stay until the end of the summer.”

“Thanks for the offer, but my housing crisis has come to a close,” I say with a timid smile. “Since I work in the dean’s office during the school year, they’ll let me move into the dorms early for no additional charge as long as I take on a couple of work shifts.”

“You’re leaving this to move into the dorms early?”

I feel my temper starting to spike at the condescension in his tone. “You want me to stay? As what, your whore?”

His face goes furious. “It’s not like that and you know it.”

“Yeah? What’s it like, Ethan? What is this?”

His mouth twists in frustration, but instead of responding, he tosses the bag behind him like a petulant child, crossing his arms as I stomp over to retrieve it.

“When were you going to tell me?” he asks, his voice calmer but no less cold.

I throw my hands up in exasperation, abandoning all pretense of packing. “I thought I just did.”

“Only because I asked.”

“I don’t report to you, Ethan!” I say, fed up with his childish reaction. “You can pull the control-freak routine with your next girlfriend, but don’t you dare try it on me.”

His eyes meet mine. “You’re not my girlfriend.”

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