Chapter no 65

If He Had Been with Me

On day three, my mother comes and sits on the edge of the bed. It’s midafternoon but I’m still in my pajamas. I’ve worn them for two days now. I’m wearing my glasses and my hair is greasy. I know staying in bed for most of the day isn’t helping my argument that I just need to be left alone, but I can’t summon the resolve to do anything else. As long as I can sleep, I feel numb, and numb is good; numb doesn’t hurt.

“Autumn,” my mother says.

“I already know what you’re going to say, so can we just skip it?”

“Why don’t call you one of your friends?” Mom says. “Why hasn’t Sasha been by?”

“The Sasha who slept with Jamie right before prom?” I feel her body tense. I curl up in a ball and pull the blankets over my head.

“I’m so sorry,” Mom says. I don’t answer her, even though she waits.

She clears her throat. “What about Brooke?”

“Jamie’s cousin? I’m sure she really wants to hear all about what a bastard he is.”


“Is gonna go into labor pretty soon now, Mom.”

She is quiet and still, and I hope that she is giving up and leaving. “I don’t suppose—one of the boys?” she says.

“Mom! Just go, please?”

I feel the mattress shift and hear her walk across the floor. She closes the door behind her. I shut my eyes and try to sleep again.


When I open my eyes again, it is late afternoon, and Mom is standing at my door.

“You need to get up,” she says. “No.”

“Finny’s coming over.”

“What?” I sit up as if a bolt of electricity has shot through me. Mom goes to the closet and seemingly reaches in at random, pulling out a blue tank top.

“Why is he coming over?” I say. Mom lays the tank top down on the bed next to me and crosses over to the dresser.

“He’s coming to see you. Do you have a strapless bra clean?” She opens the top drawer of my dresser.

“I haven’t even showered! And I don’t want to see Finny!” I say. Mom ignores me and opens another drawer.

“Jeans or a skirt? You haven’t shaved your legs, have you? Here.” She tries to hand a pair of jeans to me, but I swat them away.

“He’ll be here in ten minutes so you better hurry.” She turns away from me and walks out.

“Mom!” I shout at her retreating back. She ignores me. I jump out of bed and run to the bathroom.


When I hear him on the stairs, I am dressed, but my hair is still wet, and I’m not wearing any makeup. I grab a hair band and hastily pull my hair into a ponytail. He knocks. I look around my room. I’ve been eating here for the past three days, and I realize that, while I was showering, Mom came in and cleared out all the empty wrappers and dirty plates. I sit down on my bed. It’s been made.

“Come in,” I say. The door opens a crack and Finny’s face glances around the corner and looks at me, then he opens the door the rest of the way and stands in the threshold.

“Hey,” he says. He’s already blushing a little.

“Hi,” I say. He looks at me like he’s waiting for me to do something. “Are you going to come in or lurk in the doorway like a vampire?”

“I’ll come in,” he says. He crosses the room and pulls out the chair from my desk. He sits facing me with one elbow on the desk. I pull my knees up to my chest and lean against the headboard.

“I’m sorry they made you do this,” I say. “Who?” Finny says.

“The Mothers.” He shakes his head.

“They didn’t,” he says. “It was my idea.” He’s looking down at his lap. He doesn’t move. He just sits there with me. I look at his shoulders and his hands. His hair is even more golden from the summer sun. Something stirs in me, and I push it down again. I’d rather feel nothing.

“You should know though,” Finny says, “they’re really worried about you.”

“I know,” I say. He raises his head and looks at me.

“They’re talking about calling that doctor with the weird name.” I sit up straight and let my feet fall to the floor.

“Singh?” Finny nods. “Oh God, he’s the last person I want to see.” “Why? What’s wrong with him?”

“I dunno.” I shake my head. “He’s writes down everything I say in this file. And every time I see him, he makes me stand on his scale.” Finny frowns.


“He thinks I’m anorexic,” I say. The corners of Finny’s mouth twitch up. “It’s not funny,” I say. Finny grins and shakes his head.

“It’s kinda funny,” he says. I can’t help but smile a little when he looks at me like that.

“Okay,” I say, “maybe it’s a little funny. But I do not want to talk about Jamie with him.” When I say his name, a knife stabs my guts, and my smile fades.

“I’ll take care of it,” Finny says.

“You’ll convince them not to call him?” “Under one condition.”

“What’s that?” I ask.

Finny stands up. “Come get some ice cream with me,” he says. I sigh and pull my knees up to my chest again.

“Finny, I really don’t want to go anywhere today,” I say. Finny grabs my arm and pulls me up. “Hey!” I say.

“Where are your shoes?” he asks. He sees some flip-flops in the corner and drags me over. “Put these on.”

“These don’t match my outfit,” I say. “And I’m not wearing a tiara.” “What does that have to do with anything?” he says. “Come on.” I slide

my feet into the shoes and Finny walks me downstairs, still holding my arm. The Mothers are down in the kitchen drinking iced tea. Both of their faces light up when they see us.

“We’re going to get ice cream,” Finny says. “I’m being kidnapped,” I say.

“Good job, Phineas,” my mom says.

“Have fun, kids,” Aunt Angelina says.

He doesn’t let me go until we reach his car. He pushes the button on the automatic locks and opens the door for me. I sigh and sit down. This is only the third time I’ve ever been in the little red car; it smells of leather and of Finny. He walks around the car and slides in next to me. Without saying anything, he pulls out of the driveway and turns on the radio. He’s driving to the Train Stop, where a lot of kids from school hang out or work.

“Do I have to come in?” I say when Finny pulls into the parking lot. It’s nearly full. I recognize most of the cars.

“Why?” he says.

“I don’t want to see all the kids from school.” Finny pulls the car into a spot and turns off the engine. He turns to me in his seat.

“Do you not want to be seen with me?” he asks.

“What? No!” I say. I’m so surprised that my words come out stuttered. “I–I don’t want to have to answer any questions about Jamie.”

“Oh,” he says. “Sorry.” He gets out of the car. I watch his back as he crosses the parking lot and try to figure out why he thought I wouldn’t want to be seen with him.

Finny comes back a few minutes later carrying two cones. He taps on the window with one finger and I open the door for him. He hands both cones to me.

“Here,” he says.

“Thanks,” I say. He remembered that mint chocolate chip is my favorite. He got plain vanilla like always. I used to tease him about it. He turns out of the parking lot in the other direction from home. “Where are we going?” I ask.

“To the park,” he says. “The longer we’re gone, the better they’ll feel.”

When we get out of the car, I hand his cone to him and we walk on the path circling the lake. We eat in silence for a few minutes. I try to eat neatly so that I don’t get any green sticky on my face.

“So,” I say after a while, “what’s Sylvie doing today?”

“She left for her tour of Europe. I think she’s in London now.” “Oh, I forgot. When’s she coming back?”


“Wow.” Finny doesn’t say anything. I look up at him. He’s staring straight ahead. “Are you guys going to stay together in the fall?”

“I guess so,” he says.

“You haven’t talked about it?” “No.”

We walk in silence for a while. I eat the last bit of my cone and stray off the path to throw away my napkins. We stand by the trashcan while Finny finishes his and tosses the remains in too.

“Sasha and Jamie are both going to Rochester,” I say. The path winds closer to the lake and out from under the shade of the trees.

“Huh,” Finny says.

“So I guess they’ll be staying together.”

“Maybe they’ll break up by then,” Finny says. “Ha,” I say. “But I doubt it.”

“Well, they deserve each other,” he says.

“It’s not the healthiest way to start a relationship either,” I say. “I can’t see how this could be good for them.”

“No,” Finny says. “It won’t be.”

“And do you know what Jamie said? He said I ‘needed him too much.’” I draw quotes in the air with my fingers. Finny makes a face.

“What does that mean?”

“I dunno. But do you see what I mean? What kind of relationship is it going to be if he has that attitude?”

Finny stops and picks up a piece of gravel and pitches it at the lake. The rock skips four times, then drops into the water. I sit down in the shade and watch him search for another flat rock.

“You’re better off without them. You know that, right?” he says.

“I know,” I say. I wrap my arms around my stomach. “But I can’t help wishing things could go back to the way they used to be.” Finny glances at me and turns back to the lake. The rock jumps only once and falls. He bends down again and picks through the gravel. “Do you think that’s stupid?” I ask.

“No,” he says.

“I do,” I say. “I feel like an idiot. I should be glad it’s over. I should be relieved.”

“You should,” Finny says. He tosses the rock and it leaps across the water again and again. “But I don’t think you’re an idiot.”

“There were so many times I wanted to break up with him,” I say. “But I didn’t because I thought, ‘He loves me so much. I can’t do that to him.’ Isn’t that stupid?”

“No,” he says.

“I thought if I broke up with him, no one else would ever love me like that.”

“Well, that part is stupid,” Finny says. He turns away from the lake and sits down next to me on the grass. He rests his elbows on his knees and looks at me.

“Are you going to give me a lecture about how I’ll find love again?” I ask.

“No,” he says, “I was going to ask—” He blushes and looks back at the lake. “He didn’t sleep with you and then—”

“No,” I say. And then, “He isn’t that bad.” Finny shrugs.

We watch the lake for a little while. The sun is starting to set and turn the water warm colors. A breeze picks up and ruffles my ponytail. I hug myself again. I wonder if Jamie and Sasha are together right now, what they are doing. If they are talking about me, pitying me. I scratch my arm.

“Do you think we’ve been gone long enough?” I ask. “Probably.”

“I’m getting eaten by bugs.”

“Okay.” Finny stands and offers me his hand. He helps me up and I pretend to dust off my jeans so I get rid of the feeling of his hand on mine.

He rolls down the windows on the drive home. I hold my hand out the window and feel the air rushing through my fingers. I take my hair out of the ponytail and it whips around my face. I don’t feel numb anymore, and it’s not a good thing. My stomach hurts and my chest has a familiar ache. We don’t say anything until after he parks the car and shuts off the engine.

“What are you doing tomorrow?” Finny asks. I shrug. “Let me take you to breakfast and then you can spend the rest of your day lying in bed or whatever you want.”


“See you tomorrow then.” We open our doors and get out.

We go into our separate houses, and I go straight upstairs. I cry myself to sleep again but not just for Jamie this time.

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