door, kicking off my wet boots.
“Hey, stranger.” Alexa peeked out from around the corner. She walked up and placed a long, lanky arm around my shoulders, her faint, flowery perfume wrapping me up like a familiar hug.
“I heard you were with a boy this morning,” I teased, pretending I didn’t know about her and Slater Goodwin.
Alexa rolled her eyes. “Yeah, whatevs. We just went out for breakfast.”
We trailed down the hall toward the living room, where we both settled into our favorite spots on the family sectional.
“It’s weird not having you here,” she said, picking at her paint-chipped nails.
“Get used to it,” I said. “I love my job.”
“Isn’t that Julian kid weird, or something?” she asked. “Or is he just slow? Isn’t he, like, thirty?”
“He’s twenty-four,” I said, defending him. “And no, he’s not weird or slow, or anything. He has cystic fibrosis.”
“Oh,” Alexa said. She probably didn’t even know what that was.
“He’s actually pretty cute,” I found myself saying. “Wow, I can’t believe I just said that.”
“You totally want him,” Alexa said, her eyes lighting up. “Maybe the two of you can get married, and then when he dies, you can inherit all of his money? You’d be so loaded.”
“Who the hell thinks like that?” I scoffed at her with my best big-sister tone. “That’s so wrong, Alexa. Wow.”
“I’m kidding,” Alexa said with an eye roll. “Duh.”
My phone buzzed in my pocket. A text from Spencer flashed across the screen:
SORRY 4 LAST NIGHT. WANT TO MEET UP B4 I LEAVE 2DAY?
My head told me to ignore him, but within seconds, I began typing a response. I wanted to write OF COURSE! But my inner Carys reminded me to play the game. I made him wait a few more minutes before I sent my response.
“Who just texted you?” Alexa asked in a rare moment of caring about anyone else besides herself. She must have missed me after all.
“Spencer,” I replied as I re-read his message several times. “Can you believe that? Three years of nothing, and then all of a sudden, he wants back into my life. At least, I think he does.”
“What do you mean?”
“I ran into him a few nights ago at Mulligan’s,” I said. “He asked me on a date the next night, but then he got weird. I don’t know what the hell’s going on. And now he wants me to meet him before he goes back to Nashville.”
I NEED 2 KNOW IF UR COMING.
He texted me again, growing impatient from my initial lack of a response.
WHAT TIME? I texted him back. My inner Carys was shaking her head.
NOW? he replied.
FINE, I wrote him back.
Potter Park had a serene view of the local lake where we used to go fishing and hiking and have picnics back in the day. I hadn’t visited in the three years that had passed since we’d broken up. I could never bring myself to take anyone else there. It was almost sacred, a place where time stood still and our younger selves were still frolicking around, laughing and kissing and playing as if life had never happened and we never went our separate ways.
“I’m leaving,” I announced to Alexa as I stood and stretched. My heart raced in a way that it hadn’t in a very long time and my entire body lit with electric anticipation.
“Where you headed?” she asked, feigning disinterest.
“I’m meeting Spencer,” I said. “I probably shouldn’t, but I want to hear what he has to say before he leaves. Is this a bad idea?”
“Probably,” Alexa responded, avoiding eye contact. She grabbed her phone and began typing something. “Guys suck.”
My heart ached for her, as I could only imagine the emotional roller coaster she was about to ride if she stuck with Slater Goodwin for much longer.
I hurried down the hall to freshen up, touching up my makeup and stealing a few spritzes from Alexa’s signature gardenia perfume that just so happened to be laying out on the bathroom counter. I slid on a pair of dark