Isn't She Lovely Page 73

I gape. “You got a tattoo? Of a pigeon?”

“Well, I wanted to do a raven, but then I felt like that wasn’t very original.”

“Ethan, pigeons aren’t even birds. They’re like giant sky-rats.”

“Well, they’re very New York. And I think he’s cute. I named him Goth.”

I put my hands over my face, trying to figure out if I want to laugh or cry. “You should go, Ethan. Please go.”

He grabs my hands, pulling them away from my face and tucking them against his chest as he draws me closer.

All signs of the lighthearted Ethan are gone now, and his eyes are urgent as they scan my features. “That’s not how it ends, Kendrick. First he has to apologize. Then he tells her how wrong and stupid he was. He tells her that he doesn’t care if she decides to start wearing a velvet cape to dinner at his parents’ house. He doesn’t care that her boots belong in a Civil War museum. He doesn’t care if she wants to wear sweats to the opera or black to a wedding, or if she wants to draw black permanent marker around her eyes. And he tells her how wrong he was for saying that she lacked guts, because the truth is he wasn’t willing to meet her halfway.”


He presses his fingers to my lips, closing his eyes briefly. And when they find mine again, I feel sucker-punched at the emotion I see there.

“I wouldn’t change a single thing about you, Stephanie,” he says, dropping all pretense that this is about the movie. That it’s anything less than the two of us.

I dip my head, afraid to meet his eyes. “It’s easy to say that now,” I say softly. “When nobody here knows you, and none of your friends and family can witness this weird leather thing you have going on.”

He shifts slightly, pulling his phone out of his back pocket. “I knew you’d say that. Which is why I did this. And this. And this …”

I gape as he swipes through the various social media apps on his phone, my brain barely processing what I’m seeing. “You changed your profile picture to a photo of you dressed like that?”

“Yup,” he says proudly. “I also stopped by my parents’ house. Thought they deserved to see it in person. And I’ve gotta tell you, these pants are damned uncomfortable, but I’ll wear them every day, to every class, to every frat party, if it means you’ll come back to me.”

“Why?” I ask quietly. “This isn’t you.”

He gives me a small smile, running a thumb over my cheek. “I’m still the same guy, no matter what I wear. And you’re the same girl.”

“You didn’t want me,” I whisper.

He closes his eyes briefly. “I did want you. I still do. I was scared and small-minded. Stupid.”

He opens his eyes.

“I love you, Stephanie. Just the way you are. You can wear pink, or black, or f**king feathers, and it won’t change how I feel about you.”

Just like that, I feel my heart explode. In joy. In fear. In hope.

“Your people won’t accept me,” I whisper, throwing up the last defense I can think of.

He shrugs. “Then we’ll find new people.”

“But your parents …”

“My parents like you. And besides, they have their own issues to deal with.”

His hands are cupping my face now, and I’m relieved to note that even though he doesn’t look like my Ethan, he still smells like him.

I let my fingers curl into his shirt. “My screenplay doesn’t have a happy ending.”

His fingers tighten, and his brown eyes flash in panic. “No?”

I shake my head.

He rests his forehead on mine, his gaze beseeching. “So which ending do we choose? Indie angst, or romantic comedy?”

“Depends,” I say, my voice raspy. “Is that tattoo real?” He avoids my eyes, and I grin. “I thought not. And the earring?”

He clears his throat guiltily. “Clip-on.”

Thank God.

I lay my hand against his cheek. “In that case … I choose the happy ending.”

I see a flash of smile, and then his mouth is on mine and my arms are around his back as he lifts me and swings me around.

When my feet touch the ground again, I’m aware that everyone is grinning foolishly at us. The only way it could get more cheesy is if they started clapping, but they don’t, for which I’m thankful. I can’t say I ever imagined a scenario in which I’d be in North Carolina and the center of attention along with a guy who I’m pretty sure has a polo mallet in his hall closet. But I’m loving it.

Chris catches my eye and gives me a thumbs-up sign, and I grin at him before my eyes find my dad and Amy. She’s self-consciously dabbing her eyes as she gives me a watery smile, and my dad gives me an inept “A-okay” sign. Classic awkward father.

Family. My eyes water.

Ethan squeezes my hand, and I know he understands. Understands that he’s given me my life back.

“I love you,” I whisper.

“Kendrick, please. Like I didn’t know.”

I’m about to say more. That I’m sorry too. That he was right about me being a scared little moron, and that I’d worn all my black crap that day to drive him away because it was easier than facing my issues.

I glance at his profile, and he winks at me. And then I realize. He already knows all that. And he forgives me.

Because he loves me.

I grin back at him. “I stand by what I’ve been saying all along, you know. You’re a horrible Pygmalion. In no part of the myth or any of the movies based on the myth does Pygmalion himself get compromised with leather and whips and shit.”

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