Isn't She Lovely Page 70

I finally pull myself together enough to lift my head from her shoulder, and she digs a travel-size package of tissues out of her purse and hands them to me, along with her assessment of the situation. “Men are the worst.”

I laugh a little as I blow my nose. “Seriously.”

She squeezes my hand. “Do you want me to tell you all the stuff you already know deep down? That if he doesn’t love you for you, he’s not worth loving at all? Or should we just leave it at the guys-are-shits phase for now?”

“The second one,” I say with a smile. “But thanks.”

She nods in understanding.

“I didn’t like you,” I blurt out.

It’s her turn to laugh. “Oh, believe me, I know.”

“It just felt like you came out of nowhere. Like one minute I had my little happy family, and the next my mom was gone and my dad had you, but I had … nobody.”

“Oh, sweetie.” She squeezes my hand again. “You had us. You always had us.”

“I think I was too busy being mad,” I mutter.

“You were entitled. No girl should have to lose her mom like that. And if I’m not mistaken, there were boy troubles back then too?”

I nod but don’t elaborate. Maybe someday I’ll tell her about Caleb and that whole mess, but I’m too exhausted to tackle it now.

“You look like her, you know,” I say softly. Wanting to get it all out there.

She gives me a sad smile. “I know. I can’t help it.”

“I thought that’s why my dad married you.”

To her credit, she doesn’t even flinch. “Honestly? Maybe it is why he was attracted to me at first. But it’s not why he married me, Stephanie. And it’s not why we’re still married now.”

“I know,” I whisper, feeling small.

She glances around for a server. “I’m thinking we need another glass of wine.”

I nod. Definitely. “Amy?” I say suddenly. “I’m sorry. I know I haven’t been …” Nice, friendly, civil … “I haven’t been decent to you.”

“Oh, please,” she says with a wave of her hand. “Remember I was your age once too. I had blue streaks in my hair and a nose ring, and tube tops were the defining part of my wardrobe.”

I lift an eyebrow, taking in the immaculately dressed, perfectly groomed woman beside me. “What happened?”

She shrugged. “I grew up. Grew into myself.”

I realize I’m fiddling with one of the several earrings on my ear, feeling oddly defensive. As though she’s trying to tell me that my “goth” clothes, as Ethan calls them, are some sort of adolescent acting out. “So you think I’m just going through a phase?”

“Oh, honey,” Amy says as she gestures to the server for another round, “Life is nothing but phases. Some things stick, lots of things don’t. You’ll figure it out.”

I glance down at my boots. I wonder if guys also go through phases.

And I wonder if Ethan will ever go through one that brings him back to me.

Chapter Twenty-Eight


It’s actually my mom who put the idea in my head. She’s been calling pretty much every day lately. I only pick up half the time. Until she comes clean with my dad, there’s not a whole lot I have to say to her.

But to her credit, she’s completely dropped the idea of me and Olivia getting back together. She even used some of her connections at NYU in an attempt to help me figure out what dorm Stephanie’s in. Can’t say I ever thought I’d see the day when my mother helps me stalk a girl, but I appreciate the effort.

After a few days of frantically roaming around campus, my brain gets a word in edgewise over my moping, and I remember that Stephanie said she worked in the dean’s office. But a quick phone call later, I’m even further away than when I started.

Because Stephanie apparently decided to not pick up any shifts until the fall semester started. Which means she won’t have access to the dorms.

She’s even more MIA than before.

“Did you find her yet?” my mom asks. She asks pretty much every time we talk now, in the same matter-of-fact voice as though we’re talking about f**king Waldo.

“No, Mom. Don’t you think I would have mentioned it?”

“Probably,” she says, unfazed by my tone. “I also think you’d be a lot less grumpy with your mother.”

I ignore this.

“And you tried her home?” she says.

“Stephanie doesn’t really have a home,” I say, thinking about her whole Rhode Island/North Carolina identity crisis.

“Of course she has a home. Where does her father live?”

I reluctantly explain that they’re not on good terms and that there’s no way Stephanie would go back there. Hell, it was her desperation to avoid it that led her to agree to this whole disaster.

“Yes, honey, but that was before,” Mom says patiently.

“Before what?”

“Before you broke her heart.”

I wince. “Jesus, Mom.”

“Trust me on this. She’ll have wanted to get as far away from you as possible. Ten bucks says she’s in North Carolina.”

“Ten bucks? You wouldn’t think twice about blowing your nose on a ten-dollar bill.”

But now Mom’s got me thinking about how falling in love with Stephanie helped me let go of my anger toward Olivia and Michael, because I didn’t need the anger anymore.

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