Isn't She Lovely Page 66

I rub a hand over my face. I’m an ass.

A really, really confused ass.

I don’t even realize where I’m headed until I’m there, climbing onto my father’s sailboat and heading toward the bow.

It had always been my getaway when I needed space from my parents during the summers. A chance to gather my thoughts, or escape lectures, or just have a break from people. Later I’d shared my getaway with Olivia, and it had become a place to make out under the stars.

I freeze when I catch the familiar sight of dark blond hair. As though I’d conjured her up with my memories, Olivia is there. I’d recognize her slim back and shoulder-length hair anywhere. She’s sitting in my spot with her legs thrown over the ledge, staring out at the water.

I mean to back away slowly, find another place to be alone, but she senses my presence. Her eyes aren’t the least bit surprised when she turns around to find me, and it’s as though she knew it would be me.

Almost as though she’s been waiting for me.

I don’t know that I’m ready for this conversation, but suddenly the timing feels right. Maybe I can get Olivia and Stephanie completely out of my system and go into my senior year with a fresh start.

Maybe find a girl who won’t cheat on me. A girl who’s real rather than pretending.

She scoots over as I walk toward her, and I sit next to her. Before, I would have sat so close our hips were touching, but today there are inches between us, and I know the space isn’t just physical. It’s emotional too.

“Where’s Stephanie?” she asks softly.

I’m impressed that she uses her name. I’d always imagined ex-girlfriends as sneering Where’s your new girlfriend? or something even more derogatory when it comes to their competition. But Olivia’s never been catty.

Unfaithful, yes. Bitchy, no.

“Waiting for the jitney, I presume,” I reply, referring to the bus that shuttles dozens of Hampton-goers to and from the city.

“Without you?”


She glances down at her legs swinging above the water. “Want to talk about it?”

It’s not what Olivia and I should be talking about. We should be talking about us, and yet Olivia and I don’t seem to be the important part here.

When Olivia and I ended, I was pissed. Humiliated.

But I don’t remember feeling this crippled. Like I didn’t know what my next steps were supposed to be.

So yeah, I guess I do want to talk about it, and she’s here …

“Stephanie and I … we’re different,” I say, not knowing where to start.

Olivia glances at my profile. “Different how?”

I stare out at a distant yacht. “She’s not like us, you know?”

“Snobbish, you mean?”

I glance out of her at the corner of my eye, surprised to see that she’s smiling. “Are we? Snobbish?”

“Ethan, we’re sitting on a luxury sailboat outside a mansion in the freaking Hamptons, and I don’t think either one of our current ‘casual outfits’ cost under five hundred dollars.”

I wince. When she puts it that way …

“But it’s not a bad thing, you know. To have money. It’s not evil.”

“Noooo,” she says, drawing the word out. “But it can be toxic when we let it become our bubble. When we’re not willing to go outside it.”

Her words are like lemon juice on a paper cut. Is that what I’m doing? Hiding like a scared child inside a bubble that cares more about class and appearance than substance?

For the first time, I wonder what my dad will do if and when he learns of my mother’s affair. Will he brush it under the carpet to maintain appearances? Will he pretend it didn’t happen in order to maintain his working relationship with Mike?


No. Probably.

The thought makes me sick, and yet am I any better? I’m doing the opposite thing for the exact same reason. Instead of keeping close someone who’s perhaps bad for me, I’m pushing someone away who’s absolutely good for me.

All because she doesn’t fit.

Olivia’s eyes are on my face. “You love her.”

It’s like she’s stabbed me. That word was thrown out so easily between the two of us over the years, each giving and receiving it, and while I’m sure we meant it, it was too light. We took it for granted. Took each other for granted.

And because I can’t think of love and Stephanie just yet, I focus on Olivia.

“Why’d you do it?” I ask.

She had to know the question was coming, and yet she jolts as though dealt a blow.

“Ethan … I’ve tried to explain so many times. I’ve called. I’ve texted. I came by your parents’ house, but you were never there.…”

“So explain now.”

Her hand finds my arm, and I expect to feel either loathing or longing, but I feel … nothing.

“You have to know, Ethan, we never, never meant to hurt you.”

“Lack of premeditation’s not going to help your case, Olivia. I still saw you. And don’t tell me it was all him, because I know a reciprocal kiss when I see one.”

Her head dips, her chin almost touching her chest. “I went over there because I wanted to talk to Michael about planning a surprise party for your birthday.”

I snort. “Well, congrats. I definitely got my surprise.”

“It just happened, Ethan. You have to believe me. It was a one-time thing, and it’s not something I’d even thought about before it—”

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