I laugh. “Traffic fumes sound romantic.”

“I’m a very romantic guy.”

“Hey, listen…”


“My parents are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean right now. On a cruise.”

“Oh yeah?”

“That means they’re out of town tonight…”

He pauses. “Mine are in town tonight.”

I laugh. “Want to come over?” I ask with a shaky voice.

“Depends. Are you making me dinner?”

I grin. “You bring the dinner.”


I now have Parker’s number programmed in my cell. She squealed when I called.

“Of course I want to go shopping!”

I had only been planning to get some new clothes for college, and new sheets and a comforter for the twin bed in my dorm room, but now she’s leading me through the Green Hills mall on a mission to Victoria’s Secret.

“I don’t need underwear,” I say. This is a complete lie, but whatever.

“Kate, you cannot go shopping with me and skip the underwear portion of the trip. It’s like refusing to sing “Take Me out to the Ball Game” at a ballgame. It’s not happening.”

“You owe me.”

She grins mischievously. “Au contraire. I think you’ll owe me after we get done in here.”

I navigate past stands holding skimpy lacy panties and racks wielding barely-there bras. I avoid looking at the lingerie. Lotions and bubble bath lure me over to a shelf. I pop the caps open and start smelling lavenders, vanillas, and sea salts.

Parker snatches Love Spell out from under my nose. “We’re not here for lotion. We’re here to revamp your underwear collection.”

“Revamp my underwear collection.”

She nods, scanning the room as if planning a siege. “I think you need a stable of cotton panties and bras, all that can be swapped out but will still match.”

“A stable of panties,” I mutter.

“You need lots of panties with patterns so you can wear them with different bras,” she says, marching over to where colorful underwear stretch across a table. She holds up a pair to my crotch, as if to measure.

I smack her hand away and glance around.

“Don’t be silly,” she says, holding the panties to my crotch again. “You’re not the first person to ever wear underwear, you know.”

I feel my face growing hot. “But what if someone sees?”

She lifts a shoulder. “If someone sees, that means they’re here shopping for panties too. Or buying panties for their girlfriends.”

“Guys buy panties for their girlfriends?” I ask, imagining Matt in here trying to pick out something.

Parker ignores my question. “You also need a couple of lacy bras and matching panties.”

“I don’t need those kind,” I say quietly, even though that’s exactly what I need.

She raises her eyebrows. “How far have you and Matt gone, anyway?” She’s practically running in place, she’s so excited.

I bite my lip. Part of me is ashamed to admit I’ve sinned, especially since I’ve questioned people in the past. But I’m proud of Matt and I’m falling for him and I want to tell Parker all about him. How he loves his parents, how he puts the doors back on his Jeep for me, how he sneaks out late at night to make music for me.

“We’ve taken our shirts off together,” I admit, examining a pair of boy shorts.


“And…it was nice.”

Parker smiles and leads me to a rack of lacy bras. “You need one of these black ones for sure. Will loves mine.”

My face heats up, but I smile back at her. I ask, “What other colors does Will like?”

An hour later, and each holding a pink bag, we make our way to the food court, jabbering about anything and everything. She tells me about how her dad just started dating again and that it’s kinda weird but she’s happy for him. We see a poster for a new animated film about a hippo who wants to perform on Broadway and she says her favorite Disney movie is Finding Nemo and I say mine is Beauty and the Beast.

We each buy pasta, some garlic bread, and a Diet Coke, and grab a table in the middle of the food court, where sun shines through the windows above. I wipe a napkin across the sticky table.

Parker takes a dainty bite of garlic bread. The cheese stretches out into a long, floppy string and she pushes it into her mouth. “So is Matt a good kisser?” she asks, chewing.


“What?” She sips her Coke through a straw.

“A couple weeks ago? His dad walked in on us making out.”

Her eyes open wide. “Holy mortifying. What did you do?”

“Matt took me home and we made out in my driveway instead.”

She laughs and takes another small bite. She never eats much. “Will and I usually hook up in his basement, but his brothers are always accidentally interrupting us. Or his mom asks him to do some chore. Like, last Saturday? We thought we were home alone, so we were kissing and he took my shirt off, and then his mom hollered down the steps for him to come upstairs and hang her new curtains.”

I feel my face going rosy, but I’m laughing along with her. I like talking to her. I like hearing about her experiences. But it makes me feel ashamed that Emily had tried to talk to me about this stuff and I never wanted to hear it because I thought it was wrong. It is wrong, but at the same time, everything about Matt feels good and I want to talk about him with Parker. It couldn’t have been easy for Emily. I want to tell her I’m starting to understand.

“And then this one time,” Parker whispers, looking from Häagen-Dazs to the Greek Palace, “Will’s hand was, you know—” She points down and I suck on my lower lip, waiting to hear what comes next. “And his brother, Rory—he’s gonna be a freshman at Hundred Oaks this fall—walked in on us and then walked right back out.”

“That sounds really awkward.”

Her face scrunches up in embarrassment. “That was the first time we’d done that too.”

I’m really getting into the girl talk, and I feel like I can trust her. “I haven’t done that yet,” I whisper.

“I had only done it one other time before Will.”

I raise an eyebrow. “With who…?”

She sips her drink and plucks a bite of bread and pops it into her mouth. She looks around the food court, chewing. “Remember Coach Hoffman?”

I lean back in my chair, shocked. Last spring, Jacob told Emily and me that Parker had gotten caught kissing the coach of the school baseball team. We heard she seduced him. “The rumors were true?”

“It was a mistake…I mean, at the time I thought he was right for me, but he wasn’t.”

“He left, right? He moved away?”

Her eyes glaze over. “Yeah.”

“You okay?” I ask quietly.

“I’m fine. It’s just…he left and I haven’t heard from him since. And I don’t care that much because I’m really falling in love with Will. It just sucks I didn’t mean enough to Brian—I mean, Coach Hoffman, for him to check on me after he left.”

“That sucks.” I sip my drink. “So you’re in love with Will? Have you told him?”

“Not yet…But I will soon.”

“He’ll say it back.” I want to reach out and touch her hand, but instead I cradle my paper cup.

“Even if he doesn’t say it back, I still love him and want him to know.”

“I’m sure he loves you too.”

Parker looks up at me and chews more slowly. She swallows. “Thanks.”

Her phone beeps and she checks the screen. She shakes her head as she types. “It’s Drew. He knows I’m at the mall and he wants me to come see this pair of jeans he likes at Nordstrom.”

“Oh,” I say, my voice soft. Does she want to leave already?

Then Drew appears at our table and sits down next to Parker. He takes a bite of her pasta and sips her drink, and ignores me.

“Can we check out the pants I want?”

“You in?” Parker asks me.

“It’s okay—I should go anyway.” I grab my purse and Victoria’s Secret bag and push my chair away from the table.

“Come with us!” Parker says. She nudges Drew, and he lifts a shoulder.

I find myself following them past Gap, Banana Republic, and the yummy Lindt chocolate store, and while I try to ignore their conversation, I distinctly hear Parker telling him, “She’s my friend. Would you drop it?”

At Nordstrom, Parker stands outside the guys’ dressing room while Drew tries on the black jeans he just has to have. Neckties lay fanned across a display table, like a rainbow. I drag my fingers across the silk. Daddy wears a tie every day to work, and when he’s not working, he’s usually in a button-down shirt. Does Matt even own a tie?

I smile to myself because I never want to see Matt wearing a tie. I like him the way he is, with his ratty T-shirts and tanks and weathered polos. I like that he knows his style.

Drew struts out of the dressing room in the black jeans, and well, they look terrible with the gray polo he’s wearing. Parker is looking at the jeans and shaking her head, but then I get an idea. I head over to the girls’ juniors section, where I find an extra-large red and black plaid shirt with ¾ length sleeves, and carry it back to the dressing room.

“Drew, try this on,” I tell him, passing the shirt over the top of the door. “Roll up the sleeves.”

“This is so not me,” he replies, but when he comes out, he’s beaming. The outfit really works. “Maybe I should wear girls’ clothes more often,” he jokes, checking himself out in the mirror.

“Kate’s really artistic,” Parker tells him.

“Oh yeah?” He flashes me a brief smile.

“Let me go find some shoes to match,” I tell them, grinning to myself.

Matt showed up at my front door with a pizza. He remembered that I love pepperoni and mushrooms!

I kiss his cheek four times and whisper how much I missed him.

“I missed you too,” he says, focusing on my eyes. He pecks my lips. “Sorry I’m late,” he says, squeezing past me into the foyer. “Lacey’s driving me nuts. She thinks I’m her personal chauffeur.”

“Where’s Jeremiah?” I ask, taking the six-pack of Coke from his hands.

He pauses to think and takes a breath. “Out with some girl named Erin?”

After a quick tour of the downstairs of my house (Matt is both excited and freaked out by all of Daddy’s antique shotguns and animal heads. I fear his heart now belongs to Vincent Moose), we settle on the living room floor to eat by tea lights. Parker let me borrow her short yellow sundress, so Indian style is a no-go. I have to sit with my back up against the couch with my feet out in front of me. Matt scans my legs and bites into his pizza, smiling.

“What?” I ask, sipping Coke.

“Whenever we’re not at camp, you wear these clothes that drive me nuts.”

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