He shakes his shaved head and goes back in his apartment. But the door opens quickly again, and a handful of something is thrown at us before it’s

slammed back shut.

Condoms. Oh my God, how humiliating.

St. Clair’s entire face is now bright red as he picks the tiny silver squares off the floor and stuffs them into his coat pockets. We don’t speak, don’t even look at each other, as we climb the stairs to my floor. My pulse quickens with each step. will he fol ow me to my room, or has Nate ruined any chance of


We reach the landing, and St. Clair scratches his head. “Er ...”

“So ...”

“I’m going to get dressed for bed. Is that all right?” His voice is serious, and he watches my reaction careful y.

“Yeah. Me too. I’m going to . . . get ready for bed, too.”

“See you in a minute?”


I swel with relief. “Up there or down here?”

“Trust me, you don’t want to sleep in my bed.” He laughs, and I have to turn my face away, because I do, holy crap do I ever. But I know what he means.

It’s true my bed is cleaner. I hurry to my room and throw on the strawberry pajamas and an Atlanta Film Festival shirt. It’s not like I plan on seducing him.

Like I’d even know how.

St. Clair knocks a few minutes later, and he’s wearing his white bottoms with the blue stripes again and a black T-shirt with a logo I recognize as the

French band he was listening to earlier. I’m having trouble breathing.

“Room service,” he says.

My mind goes . . . blank. “Ha ha,” I say weakly.

He smiles and turns off the light. We climb into bed, and it’s absolutely positively completely awkward. As usual. I rol over to my edge of the bed. Both of us are stiff and straight, careful not to touch the other person. I must be a masochist to keep putting myself in these situations. I need help. I need to see a shrink or be locked in a padded cel or straitjacketed or something.

After what feels like an eternity, St. Clair exhales loudly and shifts. His leg bumps into mine, and I flinch. “Sorry,” he says.

“It’s okay.”





“Thanks for letting me sleep here again. Last night ...”

The pressure inside my chest is torturous. What? What what what?

“I haven’t slept that well in ages.”

The room is silent. After a moment, I rol back over. I slowly, slowly stretch out my leg until my foot brushes his ankle. His intake of breath is sharp. And then I smile, because I know he can’t see my expression through the darkness.

Chapter twenty-two

Saturday is another day of wandering, food, and movies, fol owed by an awkward conversation in the stairwel . Fol owed by a warm body in my bed.

Fol owed by hesitant touches. Fol owed by sleep.

Even with the uncomfortable bits, I’ve never had a better school break.

But Sunday morning, things change. When we wake up, St. Clair stretches and accidental y smacks my boobs. Which not only hurts but also mortifies us both equal y. Then at breakfast, he grows distant again. Checks his phone for messages while I’m talking. Stares out the café windows. And instead of

exploring Paris, he says he has homework to do in the dorm.

And I’m sure he does. He hasn’t exactly kept up with it. But his tone strikes me as off, and I know the real reason for his departure. Students are arriving back. Josh and Rashmi and Mer will be here this evening.

And so will El ie.

I try not to take it personal y, but it hurts. I consider going to the movies, but I work on my history homework instead. At least that’s what I tell myself I’m doing. My ears are tuned to the movements above me in his room, tuned to distraction. He’s so close, yet so far away.As students arrive back, Résidence

Lambert gets louder, and it becomes difficult to pick out individual noises. I’m not even sure if he’s there anymore.

Meredith bursts in around eight, and we go to dinner. She chatters about her holiday in Boston, but my mind is elsewhere. He’s probably with her right now. I remember the first time I saw them together—their kiss, her hands tangled in his hair—and I lose my appetite.

“You’re awful y quiet,” Mer says. “How was your break? Did you get St. Clair out of his room?”

“A little.” I can’t tell her about our nights, but for some reason, I don’t want to tell her about our days either. I want to keep the memories for myself, hidden. They’re mine.

Their kiss. Her hands tangled in his hair. My stomach churns.

She sighs. “And I was hoping he might come back out of his shel . Take a walk, get some fresh air. You know, something craa-zy like that.”

Their kiss. Her hands tangled—

“Hey,” she says. “You guys didn’t do anything crazy while we were gone, did you?”

I nearly choke on my coffee.

The next few weeks are a blur. Classes pick up with the professeurs anxious to get to the halfway point in their lesson plans. We pul all -nighters to keep up, and we cram to prepare for their finals. For the first time, it strikes me how competitive this school is. Students here take studying seriously, and the dormitory is almost as quiet as it was when they were gone for Thanksgiving.

Letters arrive from universities. I’ve been accepted into all of the schools I applied to, but there’s hardly time to celebrate. Rashmi gets into Brown, and Meredith gets into her top picks, too—one in London, one in Rome. St. Clair doesn’t talk about col ege. None of us know where he’s applied or if he’s applied, and he changes the subject whenever we bring it up.

His mother is done with chemo, and it’s her last week of external radiation. Next week, when we’re home, she’l have her first internal radiation

treatment. It requires a three-day hospital stay, and I’m thankful St. Clair will be there for it. He says her spirits are up, and she claims she’s doing well —as well as can be expected under the circumstances—but he’s impatient to see it with his own eyes.

Today is the first day of Hanukkah and, in its honor, the school has given us a break from homework assignments and tests.

Wel , in honor of Josh.

“The only Jew in SOAP,” he says, rol ing his eyes. He’s understandably annoyed, because jerks like Steve Carver were punching his arm and thanking

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