Before we go our separate ways, we have a moment alone offstage. Now that the cameras are off of her, she’s unfocused and preoccupied. “Emma.” Tipping her chin up, I lean quickly and kiss her, just a whisper of my lips on hers, and pretend not to notice that she’s already withdrawing when I pull away. “I’ll see you next week.”

Premiere night, I’ll likely have Emma where I want her—where I’ve wanted her since I first laid eyes on her. But I can’t assume she’ll come to me when she breaks it off with Graham. She’s just self-sufficient enough to slam the door on us both—she proved that well enough last fall. On the other hand, she’ll be more receptive if for no other reason than to thumb her nose at Graham over what he’s doing with Brooke.

Am I okay with being exploited like that and then tossed aside?

Hell. Yeah.

Chapter 27


When Reid showed me that image of Graham and Brooke, everything came to a stop. I asked him when, when, but I knew, because Graham was wearing the Columbia t-shirt and the unbuttoned plaid shirt he had on when we Skyped last night. Right before the party.

I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. My life didn’t feel real.

Perfect time to appear on a hugely popular Emmy-winning talk show for the first time, huh? Reid was charming and flirty with me, with her, with the audience—and they ate it up. When Ellen suggested we use her show to clear up any rumors floating around, he grabbed my hand and kissed it (the audience screamed, “Woooo!” while my face overheated).

And then he looked at me and said, “We might as well come clean.” I wondered what we were coming clean about and the whole audience shifted forward in anticipation. He assumed a very serious look. “Emma’s pregnant with triplets.” The audience gasped. My mouth gaped. I don’t know what Ellen did, because I was staring at Reid and thinking that maybe I had just dreamed this entire day, and there was no photo of Graham sleeping next to Brooke. For one heartbeat I was so relieved.

And then Reid said, “After the premiere next week, we’re getting married in a hot air balloon, and then we’ll honeymoon on our private island until the babies come. Oh, and we’ve decided to name all of them Reid, with numbers for middle names. But in French—un, deux, trois—so it’ll be classy.” Everyone laughed. Ha, ha, so funny.


We showed clips of School Pride and discussed the Jane Austen novel that inspired it. I smiled tightly and kept my opinion on the script’s inane dialogue to myself for the hundredth time. Reid plugged the movie he’ll be filming next fall in Vancouver, I talked about my college plans, and then it was over and Reid and I were backstage. He kissed me goodbye, sort of, but I didn’t really respond, and I couldn’t feel it. I don’t think I realized until that moment that I’d spent the whole hour and a half taping numb.

I was supposed to text Graham after the show, before my flight. I didn’t. Just before I powered it down, my phone buzzed with a new text. I didn’t look at the message.

Now I’m in the air between Burbank and Sacramento, and the anger has made a tornado of the rest of my emotions, tossing and twisting them until all I can feel is the destructive point where the indignation touches the landscape. I haven’t felt this angry since I confronted my dad about wanting to make my own decisions. Does that mean I should confront Graham now? Just because I’ve learned to stand up for myself doesn’t mean it’s appropriate in every situation. Or easy. I stare out the window and consider possible scenarios of truth-telling.

Emily and Derek pick me up when I land. Her hair is newly hot pink and pixie-cut. “Like it?” she asks, and I tell her I love it.

Derek is Abercrombie-boy gorgeous from the top of his head to just above his ankles—he’s wearing high-top Chucks in the same shade of neon fuchsia as Em’s hair. I point at the shoes and smile. He shrugs. “I’m a supportive guy.”

In the Jeep, I power up my phone and read the messages—all from Graham. He goes from asking if I was at the airport yet to wondering why I wasn’t calling. He left one voicemail: “Emma, I know you’re upset over Brooke staying at my house the past two days. She’s gone, and I’ve already told her she can’t stay here again. Please call me when you land… Okay. Talk to you soon.”

I message Dad to tell him I’ve landed and I’m on my way to Emily’s. Tomorrow is Senior Skip Day, so I’m staying over at her place. When the phone rings, my heart stops, but the photo smiling up from the display is my agent.

“Hey, Dan.”

“How was Ellen? So exciting!” Dan has a habit of answering his own questions.

“It was awesome. Reid told everyone we were having triplets and getting married next week. I think there was something about a balloon. Anyway. It went well.”

Emily twists in her seat, staring back at me open-mouthed, and Dan is either speechless or we’ve been cut off.


“Emma, there’s no need to be snarky. I’m still trying to manage what’s left of your film career, in case you ever want to come back… You haven’t changed your mind, by any chance? Because I got a call today from Paramount—”

“No, I’m still going to college. And I wasn’t being snarky—Reid actually said that stuff.”

He was quiet for two seconds. “I never thought I’d say this, but I think I’m glad I’m not that boy’s agent.”

I laugh, and the phone beeps in my ear. Graham. “Um, I’ve got another call. I’m sure I’ll talk to you tomorrow after Ellen airs.”

“Sure thing. Talk tomorrow. Ciao!”

I take a deep breath before hitting talk. “Hello.”

“Emma. Are you okay? Why didn’t you call?” His voice is guarded.

I tell myself that confrontation is good when it means standing up for what I need. When it means getting everything out in the open. “Is there something you want to tell me?” Crap. Vague, Emma. So much for confrontation.

He’s quiet. “Emma, just tell me what you want to know. I’ve told you, I’m not good with games or ambiguous questions.”

“This isn’t a game, Graham.” Emily and Derek exchange a look in the front seat. I swear I can feel the adrenaline shooting through my bloodstream. Heart hammering, hands shaking. “I saw a photo of her and you. In bed.”

Emily turns all the way around in her seat, her eyes shooting flames. Derek lays a hand on her leg and they have a fierce, low-level conversation. I think he’s telling her to stay out of it and she’s telling him where to stick that recommendation.

“What?” Graham says, but I don’t answer or elaborate. He’s cursing, but not at me—he’s holding the receiver away from his mouth. “Where did you see this photo?”

“On Reid’s phone.”

There’s a long pause. “On Reid’s phone,” he says.


“Send it to me.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“He deleted it.”

“Well isn’t that convenient.” When I don’t reply, he sighs. “Emma, this wasn’t something I wanted to talk about over the phone.”

Oh God. I hang up. I can’t do this. Waiting for the phone to power down, I bite my lip and fight useless tears. Emily reaches back with her left hand, which I take and hold in a cemented grip all the way to her house.

Emily and Derek try their best to take my mind off of my disastrous love life, but my brain has a sort of three-strikes-and-you’re-out mentality about the whole thing, and Graham is strike three.

With Reid, I was too mesmerized by his super-celebrity to embark on any equal sort of relationship—if he even wanted a relationship. Reid Alexander was that guy on the magazine covers and movie posters. The guy with pages and pages of images on the web.

Marcus was a rebound, pure and simple. An attempt at something “normal.” I thought he was someone I could be friends with first. A theatre person, like me. The only thing good about that relationship was that I wasn’t all that into him, so he was easy to get over.

Graham is simply threaded through everything. I trusted him. I still want to.

After pizza and mini-golf, Derek drops us off at Em’s house. I go inside and help Mrs. Watson make cookies while Em and Derek say goodbye for half an hour in the Jeep until her dad flicks the driveway lights on and off a couple dozen times.

She breezes in a few minutes later. “Thanks, Dad—we felt like we were at a rave! I’m getting glow sticks for next weekend.”

He growls and stomps upstairs.

Emily and I watch our favorite movie, The Philadelphia Story, which is always good for short-term distraction because Kathryn Hepburn and Cary Grant can take my mind off of anything, even if we’ve seen it fifty times. Emily is vehemently Team Jimmy Stewart, so we have a long history of good-natured arguments during and after.

Tonight, I decide that what Tracy Lord (Hepburn) really needed was some time alone.

“Not a traditionally admired concept in romantic comedies, or, let’s face it, in real life,” Em says, gesturing with a Twizzler.

“True that,” I answer in the voice of Em’s dad, who attempts to relate to his kids by picking up their lingo. The fact that he’s always five years behind the curve (and that he uses the word lingo) pretty much ruins the effect. We bump fists before dissolving into muffled laughter.

After the movie is over, we lie in the dark as we have hundreds of times before. “Why did you hang up on him, if he was about to tell you the truth about her?” Between us, Emily links her hand with mine.

“I guess I just wasn’t ready to hear him confess it.”

“So you’re expecting a confession.”

I turn my head and look at her. “What else follows those words? I didn’t want to talk about this on the phone.” My voice breaks.

Hector jumps on the bed then, walking over our clasped hands and flopping between our shoulders, purring and kneading my bicep with his cotton-ball paws.

“And Wednesday, when I talked to him about moving to New York early and getting an apartment? He didn’t seem to think that was a good idea.”

I hear the frown in her voice. “Why not?”

“He said something about me having a normal college experience… and then Brooke walked into his room wearing a bathrobe sized for a small child, wanting help picking which sex-kitten top to wear to the party they were going to together!” I bite my lip. I’m pissed. I will not cry. “It all looks connected now. And I feel like an idiot.”

Emily raises herself on her elbow so I can see her face over Hector’s mound of white fur. “There’s no reason for you to feel like an idiot.”

“Yeah, there is.” I’m not going to start bawling, but that doesn’t keep tears from trickling out. They seep into my hair as I stare up into her concerned eyes. “I’m an idiot because I still want to trust him. My instincts are all screaming at me to trust him.”

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