“Emma, where are you?” He’s not quite frantic, but not calm, either.

“Didn’t you find my note? Under your glasses?”

“Yes. And I’m in the café—where you, by the way, are not.”

Oh. “Um, Graham and I decided to take a walk, and then we got on the subway because it’s a little chilly out… and now we’re in Brooklyn.”

“Brooklyn?” he yells, his voice piercing, and Graham and Cassie both glance at my phone and then at each other from opposite ends of the huge space.

“We’re at his sister’s loft,” I smile at her in what I hope is a reassuring manner, “having coffee.”

He tries for a mildly concerned tone. “Emma, our flight is at noon—”

“I know, Dad.”

“But…” he sighs, and I imagine him rubbing his hand over his face in that way he does when he’s frustrated. We’ve grown closer over the past six months, but he missed his chance to be the monitoring parent years ago and he knows it. “When will you be back?”

“When do you want to leave for the airport?” I hedge.



Last night and last month and last fall I wanted nothing more than to hear Graham tell me he wanted me, and now, he has. Suddenly aware that we will say goodbye in less than two hours, the whole thing feels hopelessly muddled and complicated.


“Yeah, Dad, sorry. I’ll be back in time to pack up.” My throat tightens with the realization that it could be more than a month before I see Graham again.

“Is everything okay?”


He sighs again. “We’ll talk later, sweetheart. I can tell you can’t talk now.”

“Thanks, Dad. I’ll be back soon.”

Cassie is a cellist with the New York Symphony, on a short leave of absence at the moment to be a full-time mother. “I couldn’t let my little brother show me up on the parenting front,” she smirks, watching as Graham makes faces at the baby, whose name is Caleb.

Gesturing to a barstool, she moves to the opposite side of the granite-slabbed counter while I examine the loft. Wood cut-outs, iron sculptures, paintings, prints and mixed media arrangements hang on the rough brick walls, along with two bicycles. An upright bass and a cello flank the undivided windows and floor-to-ceiling shelves house tons of books and photos. The loft is casual and cozy.

My stepmother, Chloe, would hate this place. I love it.

“What brings you to New York, Emma?” Cassie asks, pouring coffee into three mugs.

“I’m here with my dad, choosing a college.”

Her eyes flick across the room and back and she smiles. “Are you? So you’ll be moving to New York in the fall?” I nod and her smile widens. “I’m sure my brother is happy about that.”

I wonder what, exactly, Graham has told her about me. As though I’d posed this question aloud, she leans onto her elbows and lowers her voice. “He likes you a lot, you know.” My face warms, but she doesn’t seem to notice. “I wouldn’t butt in, but he’s too damned reserved, and if one of you doesn’t exhibit some daring, this whole thing will be one big missed opportunity.”

I clear my throat. “We’ve already, um, talked about things this morning…” I say, and she slaps a hand on the counter.

“Well thank God. It’s about time.”

“What’s about time?” Graham’s voice is right behind me. He takes a seat on the stool next to me.

Cassie’s brows rise and she gives him a haughty stare. “If we wanted you to be part of this conversation, we’d have been talking louder.”

He laughs, and Caleb coos up at him. “Fine. I’ll just wheedle it out of Emma later.”

Chapter 3


She’s quiet on the return trip. We both are. For all of our earlier give-and-take, there’s only one issue on my mind now: the 2500 miles between us for the next four months. I have three more weeks of class before graduation. The premiere of School Pride is in LA the following week, with the associated whirlwind of red carpets and cast parties and Hollywood in its usual circus atmosphere. Mid-summer, I’ll begin filming my next movie here in New York. It’s a low-budget indie, which means fast and cheap and long hours with no time to fly to LA for a weekend.

Cassie loaned us hoodies, so we don’t have to huddle together for warmth, but I hold Emma’s hand, fingers laced, and she presses her thigh against mine and leans her head against my shoulder. Sighing, she stares out at the Manhattan Bridge view that keeps me from ever wanting to live anywhere but New York. The high-rise windows are thousands of tiny mirrors from this distance, the skyline lit in waves like a sun-drenched waterfall as rays strike each building. I wish I could hit replay on this five-minute span of time; it might be enough to tide me over for a while. But we reach the other side of the river and plunge underground, the fluorescent lighting casting everything with a sickly green tint.

Between the later hour and the hoodies, we won’t freeze now, walking around. There’s plenty to see in SoHo, even this early in the morning. Peering into wide-windowed galleries and tiny shops, we maneuver our way around street vendors setting up for the day—crowding onto the edges of sidewalks that will be jammed with people in an hour or two. Emma and I hunch together as though we live here and we’re just out getting breakfast, and I realize that this is what scares the hell out of me—I already want that with her. I want to be with her, absorb her into my life and have her absorb me into hers.

A conversation I had with Cassie years ago, soon after Zoe and I broke up, pushes into my consciousness. “I don’t understand what girls want,” I told her. From what I could tell, girls acted like they wanted declarations of undying love, but once they got them, those confessions were taken for granted. That, or you were rejected for being too clingy, dependent, or insecure—all words Zoe tossed out during the week leading up to the breakup.

“Girls expect you to love them forever, and they say they feel the same, but they really mean until I get bored with you.” I was well on my way to becoming a very bitter sixteen-year-old boy.

Cassie was twenty-two, and had been through her share of relationships by that point. She’d not yet met Doug, and wouldn’t for another three years and one more failed relationship. Sitting at her kitchen table in the tiny walkup she shared with two other girls, we faced a window overlooking a courtyard of dead grass and gravel. The remainder of the view consisted of an adjacent, equally dilapidated building and no sky at all.

“Graham, not all girls will be like that.”

Torn between despair and hope, I said, “Hmph,” and gulped from the soda can she handed me when I sat down. She grabbed my hand, wanting to fix everything for me, I know, but she was as powerless to remedy what had happened as I was. The combination of her commiseration and another wave of Zoe thoughts made my throat ache. Yanking my hand from beneath hers, I stared out the viewless window. I didn’t want to cry over Zoe anymore. I wanted to be angry. Anger was so much easier to work with.

Cassie sighed. “Someday, you’ll find a girl who can handle the intense way you love. Who isn’t intimidated by it—because that’s what this is. Zoe can’t feel this profoundly about anything or anyone. She’s shallow and self-centered. And she’s blown the chance at a wonderful guy.”

I hadn’t believed her, of course—that I’d find a girl like that, someone other than Zoe.

I still didn’t quite believe it last night, when Emma kissed me, and everything I’d dreamed of with her flashed before my eyes.

Now, I’m visualizing us walking these streets together, alone or with Cara between us. I picture her sleeping in my bed. I imagine her accompanying me on location during breaks from school. Then everything speeds up and I watch her walk across a stage to accept her diploma. I see myself sliding a ring on her finger and promising her eternity and lifting a veil and kissing her.

If she hadn’t sent that text at 2 a.m. last night, I might have let her go. I might have never confessed how I felt about her. I was so afraid of wanting too much that I couldn’t trust her handing me a shot at getting it. I don’t want to be that senselessly fearful ever again.

Our outer hands shoved into our respective hoodie pockets, I hold Emma’s left hand in my right, deep inside my pocket. We end up on a bench in front of her hotel, the minutes ticking away, nothing to be done but let them fall until she’s gone.

“What happens now?” she says, just as I was going to ask if taking her to meet Cassie was too uncomfortable for her. Too much, too soon.

I swallow my question and answer hers. “Now, we run up the minutes on our cell phones and we text, and Skype, and in less than five weeks, I’ll be in LA and so will you.” Then I realize that I’m not sure if she means now, this second, or now, this point in our newly established relationship. She chews her lip, and I say, “If all you meant was what are we doing for the next half hour, please don’t tell me, because I’ll feel like an idiot.”

She laughs. “No, I’m good with the five week plan.”

What about a five year plan? I think. But instead of voicing that, I take her face in my hands and kiss her.


Dad sleeps during the flight. I try to read but can’t concentrate, so I end up reading and rereading the same passages until it’s just ridiculous and I give up and stare out at the blue sky. The cottony clouds below us come in transient batches, alternatively showing and obscuring the miles and miles of nothing, towns and cities popping up occasionally and disappearing before I can begin to guess where we are.

Every mile takes me farther from Graham.

And every mile makes me less sure that what happened between us actually happened. It’s like a dream. All of it. I tried to explain to Dad what had taken place—the share-with-your-parent version, of course. I didn’t tell him Graham came to the hotel last night. Or that I texted him at 2 a.m. But he knows something’s up—more than just meeting a friend for breakfast. He’s given me a couple of sidelong glances I’m probably not supposed to have noticed. He knows that Graham has all of a sudden become significant. I don’t know how to explain myself. I know what I feel; I’m just not sure how to make it sound as sensible as it seems to me.

I turn it all over in my head. Neither of us said the words, but they hung over our heads like a shared thought bubble: I love you. I can’t reconcile the fact that the words seem both too soon and past due.

Emily will help me sort it out. Before I left for New York, she asked me if I was falling for Marcus. We’ve gone out together several times, the four of us. Emily’s boyfriend, Derek, is one of those guys who gets along with anyone; so is Marcus, usually. Which makes it all the more odd that they don’t seem to relate to each other. Emily and I have watched the two of them talk, and we decided they’re like polite coworkers, or neighbors who’ve never seen the inside of each other’s houses, and don’t really need to, thanks.

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