Isn't She Lovely Page 62

I realize now why I’ve felt like there’s been an elephant sitting on my chest for the past few days. I’ve been dreading the moment of returning to my apartment and not smelling whatever bubbles she has going in her nightly baths. I’ve been dreading not having anyone mock the fact that I iron my golf shorts and dry-clean my polos.

I’ve been dreading life without Stephanie. And now I don’t have to.

I take a quick shower before pulling on a pair of khaki shorts and a green button-down, just because she once told me I looked “not too bad” in green. It was a begrudging compliment, but it was definitely a compliment. I’ll take it.

As I emerge from my room, I practically collide with Mike and Michelle St. Claire.

“Ethan!” Michelle says, her face as familiar as my own mother’s, and she looks so pleased to see me that my gut twists. “I haven’t seen you all weekend. Or all summer.”

There’s a question there, but I’m not about to answer it. That’s Michael’s to deal with. Still, it’s not her fault that her son slept with my girlfriend, or that her husband is probably sleeping with my mother.

I wonder if she knows.

Fueled partly by pity and partly by fond memories, I give her a hug and kiss her cheek, doing my best to avoid eye contact with Mike. How he could cheat on a woman like Michelle St. Claire is beyond me.

I make small talk for a few seconds before Mike grumbles about being hungry and drags his wife toward the stairs.

She gives me one last beseeching glance. “We’ll tell Michael you say hi, okay?”

Please don’t. “Okay,” I say, forcing a smile.

Still, the thought of my best friend doesn’t burn as badly as it has in recent weeks, and I wonder if maybe it’s time that I give him a call. The least we can do is have it out. Over a decade of friendship deserves at least that much.

I knock softly on Stephanie’s door, not bothering to wait for a response before entering.

Her back is to me, and she’s carefully loading her cocktail dresses and swimsuits into her suitcase.

But it’s not the clothes she’s packing that has my attention. It’s the clothes she’s wearing.

She turns her head toward me, giving me a shy smile. “Hi,” she says, her cheeks turning pink.

I tell myself to say something to make her less nervous. To tell her that she should absolutely not be embarrassed about what happened between us last night. That it was one of the best nights of my life, and not just because of the sex. The talking, the cuddling, the confiding … all of it.

But I can’t take my eyes off her boots. Her pants. Her black top. Her eye makeup.

I see the moment that she registers that I’m not saying anything. That I can’t stop staring, and not in the way a guy who’s just lovingly taken her virginity should be looking at her.

But I can’t help it. This isn’t the Stephanie from last night. This is the pissy, angry, world-hating Stephanie. I thought she was gone. But she’s staring right at me.

In my parents’ house. Where anyone can see her.

“What’s, um … what’s with the get-up?” I ask.

Her face immediately clouds over, her blue eyes blinking in hurt and I feel like a dick. But she recovers quickly, and the pain fades into wary anger.

“My get-up? You mean my clothes?”

I gesture toward her suitcase. “Those are your clothes. And I thought I got rid of that gray eye shadow.”

The shadowy eyes in question narrow on me. “You did. I bought some more.”


“Are you mad at me? Is that why you’re all gothed out?” I ask tentatively, trying to figure out what I’m missing. Why she’s not wearing some cute little brunch-appropriate sundress like everyone else will be wearing.

“I wasn’t. But I’m certainly getting there,” she says between gritted teeth.

“Spell it out for me,” I say with an easy smile. “What did I do to deserve the all-black attire?” And I do mean all black. From the slim T-shirt to the baggy pants to the boots the pants are tucked into, there’s not a speck of color on her, save for the blue eyes, and the eyes are pissed.

The warning bells that had started as mere chimes were now wailing in my head.

“You didn’t do anything to deserve it, Ethan.” Her voice is calm, and that’s way worse than if she’d been screaming at me. “But we’ve said from day one that today marks the end of the charade. The day I can stop pretending.”

“But last night … I thought …”

She looks at me patiently. “Last night was everything to me. But I don’t see what it has to do with my wardrobe.”

I rub a hand over the back of my neck, struggling to find the right thing to say. On one hand, I want to tell her that it doesn’t matter. That I’ll feel the same about her no matter what she’s wearing. That she could wear a space suit and I wouldn’t care.

But then I imagine the two of us walking down to my parents’ brunch with her wearing that. I imagine the stares, the raised eyebrows, the confusion.

And before I realize what’s happening, there’s a montage running through my brain like an unbidden slide show.

Me taking Stephanie to my frat formal when she’s dressed like a horror-movie extra.

Stephanie and me at my parents’ for dinner with her wearing all twelve hundred earrings.

Us meeting up after class, me with my fellow preppy business students and her with her goth film friends, and none of us having a thing to say to each other.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies