“Why are you tell ing me this?” I’m crying again. I pul my wrist from his grasp.

“I know you didn’t like me as much as I liked you. I know you would have rather been with him, and I dealt with that a long time ago. I’m over it.”

The shame is overwhelming. Even though I knew Matt was aware that I liked Toph, it’s awful to hear him say it aloud.

“But I’m stil your friend.” He’s exasperated. “And I’m sick of seeing you waste your energy on that jerk. You’ve spent all this time afraid to talk about what was going on between you two, but if you’d ever bothered to just ask him, you would have discovered that he wasn’t worth it. But you didn’t. You never asked him, did you?”

The weight of hurt is unbearable. “Please leave,” I whisper. “Please just leave.”

“Anna.” His voice levels, and he waits for me to look at him. “It was stil wrong of him and Bridge not to tell you. Okay? You deserve better than that. And I sincerely hope whomever you were just talking to”—Matt gestures toward the phone in my purse—“is better than that.”

Chapter twenty-eight

To: Anna Oliphant <[email protected]>

From: Étienne St. Clair <[email protected]>



Have you gotten used to the time difference? Bloody hel , I can’t sleep. I’d cal , but I don’t know if you’re awake or doing the family thing or what.

The bay fog is so thick that I can’t see out my window. But if I could, I am quite certain I’d discover that I’m the only person alive in San Francisco.

To: Anna Oliphant <[email protected]>

From: Étienne St. Clair <[email protected]>

Subject: I forgot to tell you.

Yesterday I saw a guy wearing an Atlanta Film Festival shirt at the hospital. I asked if he knew you, but he didn’t. I also met an enormous, hairy

man in a cheeky Mrs. Claus getup. He was handing out gifts to the cancer patients. Mum took the attached picture. Do I always look so startled?

To: Anna Oliphant <[email protected]>

From: Étienne St. Clair <[email protected]>

Subject: Are you awake yet?

Wake up. Wake up wake up wake up.

To: Étienne St. Clair <[email protected]>

From: Anna Oliphant <[email protected]>

Subject: Re: Are you awake yet?

I’m awake! Seany started jumping on my bed, like, three hours ago. We’ve been opening presents and eating sugar cookies for breakfast. Dad

gave me a gold ring shaped like a heart. “For Daddy’s sweetheart,” he said. As if I’m the type of girl who’d wear a heart-shaped ring.

FROM HER FATHER. He gave Seany tons of Star Wars stuff and a rock polishing kit, and I’d much rather have those. I can’t believe Mom

invited him here for Christmas. She says it’s because their divorce is amicable (um, no) and Seany and I need a father figure in our lives, but al

they ever do is fight. This morning it was about my hair. Dad wants me to dye it back, because he thinks I look like a “common prostitute,” and

Mom wants to re-bleach it. Like either of them has a say. Oops, gotta run. My grandparents just arrived, and Granddad is bel owing for his

bonnie lass. That would be me.

P.S. Love the picture. Mrs. Claus is total y checking out your butt. And it’s Merry Christmas, weirdo.

To: Anna Oliphant <[email protected]>

From: Étienne St. Clair <[email protected]>

Subject: HAHAHA!

Was it a PROMISE RING? Did your father give you a PROMISE RING?

To: Étienne St. Clair <[email protected]>

From: Anna Oliphant <[email protected]>

Subject: Re: HAHAHA!

I am so not responding to that.

To: Anna Oliphant <[email protected]>

From: Étienne St. Clair <[email protected]>

Subject: Uncommon Prostitutes

I have nothing to say about prostitutes (other than you’d make a terrible prostitute, the profession is much too unclean), I only wanted to type that.

Isn’t it odd we both have to spend Christmas with our fathers? Speaking of unpleasant matters, have you spoken with Bridge yet? I’m taking the

bus to the hospital now. I expect a ful breakdown of your Christmas dinner when I return. So far today, I’ve had a bowl of muesli. How does Mum

eat that rubbish? I feel as if I’ve been gnawing on lumber.

To: Étienne St. Clair <[email protected]>

From: Anna Oliphant <[email protected]>

Subject: Christmas Dinner

MUESLI? It’s Christmas, and you’re eating CEREAL?? I’m mental y sending you a plate from my house. The turkey is in the oven, the gravy’s on

the stovetop, and the mashed potatoes and casseroles are being prepared as I type this. Wait. I bet you eat bread pudding and mince pies or

something, don’t you? well , I’m mental y sending you bread pudding. Whatever that is. No, I haven’t talked to Bridgette. Mom keeps bugging me

to answer her cal s, but winter break sucks enough already. (WHY is my dad here? SERIOUSLY. MAKE HIM LEAVE. He’s wearing this giant

white cable-knit sweater, and he looks like a pompous snowman, and he keeps rearranging the stuff in our kitchen cabinets. Mom is about to kil

him. WHICH IS WHY SHE SHOULDN’T INVITE HIM OVER FOR HOLIDAYS.) Anyway. I’d rather not add to the drama.

P.S. I hope your mom is doing better. I’m so sorry you have to spend today in a hospital. I real y do wish I could send you both a plate of turkey.

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