Chapter no 66

If He Had Been with Me

When I come downstairs, Mom is at the table drinking coffee and reading the paper. She raises her eyebrows at me but doesn’t comment. I have makeup on today, and my hair is clean and dry. I picked up a tiara and almost set it on my head, but then sat it back down.

I go to the refrigerator and pour myself a glass of apple juice. “Thank you,” I say to her while my back is still turned.

“For what?”

“Not saying anything.”

“You’re welcome.” I sit down across from her and pick up the cartoons. “What are you doing today?” she asks. She takes another sip and does not look away from the paper.

“Finny and I are going to breakfast.” Mom looks up and smiles. “Try not to look so thrilled,” I say.

“Sorry,” she says. She looks down at the newspaper again.

Finny sent me a text an hour ago, asking me what time I wanted to leave. It woke me up. I thought for a horrible moment that it would be Jamie, and then I remembered everything. If my plans had been with anyone else but Finny, I wouldn’t have been able to drag myself out of bed.

I hear his knock on the back door and I look up. He opens the door himself and comes into the kitchen.

“Hi,” he says.

“Good morning, Finny,” Mom says.

“Just a sec,” I say. I gulp down the rest of my juice and stand. “What time will you be home?” Mom asks.

“I dunno,” I say. “It’s just breakfast.” “Call if you’ll be later than midnight.” “You’re hilarious, Mom.”

Finny opens the door for me and we go outside. “Mine was ecstatic too,” he says.


He doesn’t laugh at me for ordering a hamburger and fries for breakfast. The waitress doesn’t frown either, and I file it away as further evidence that I’m not the only one. Finny orders bacon, eggs, and hash browns, just like you’re supposed to.

“Has your mom told you yet that we don’t have curfews anymore?” Finny says after the waitress takes our menus.

“No. Are you sure it’s both of us?”

“That’s what she said. And she said the same thing about calling later than midnight.”


Finny’s phone rings. He pulls it out of his pocket, looks at it, and frowns. “Sorry,” he says to me, and then into the phone, “Hey.” I take a crayon from the jar on the table and start to draw on the paper tablecloth. “Are you still jet-lagged?” he says. I draw a flower and then a heart. I scratch out the heart. “Yeah, I’m about to eat breakfast. Really? That’s cool.” He listens for a long time then. I draw a house with a sun in the sky, and two stick figures in the yard playing with a red ball. I pause and make them a blond girl and a brunette boy. I give them a dog. I always wanted a dog. “Uh-huh. I do. I miss you too.” My eyes are glued to the table. I will not look up. The waitress comes with our food and covers up my drawing. While Finny listens to the phone, I pick at my French fries and stir the ketchup in swirls.

“Okay. Have fun. And, Sylvie?” Even though I knew it was her, the name jolts me and I look up at him. He glances at me and looks away. “Uh, just be safe, okay? Don’t do anything—you know.” He pauses and listens.

“I know. I know. Love you too. Bye.” He puts his phone back in his pocket. I look down at my food again. “Sorry,” he says.

“It’s fine,” I say.

“With the time difference and all the running around she’s doing, she can’t call that often. I couldn’t tell her to call back.”

“No, really, it’s fine. How is she?” “She’s fine. Really excited.”

“That’s nice,” I say. I finally pick up my hamburger and take a bite.

“So…Angie had her baby yet?” I chew slowly and watch him cut up his eggs.

“No,” I say. “I haven’t actually talked to her since graduation though. I know I should call her, but—” I shrug and take another bite.

“I bet she understands,” he says. We eat in silence for a few minutes. Finny eats all his eggs, then all his hash browns, and when there is nothing else left, he starts on the bacon.

“Jamie said he hoped we could all be friends,” I say. Finny looks up at me.

“Friends with him and Sasha?” he says. “Yeah,” I say.

Finny shakes his head. “He’s crazy,” he says.

“Is it bad that I want everyone else to take my side against them?” I ask. “No,” Finny says, “but you shouldn’t expect them to either. It may not


“I know,” I say. Finny breaks his bacon in half and offers me a piece. I shake my head.

“I’m on your side,” he says. He wipes his hands on his napkin. “You don’t count,” I say.


“You know what I mean.” “I know.”


He drives with the windows rolled down again, this time because I ask him to. It’s nearly noon now, and the rest of the day is stretching out blankly. I sigh and look out the window.

“Are you going to go back to lying in bed today?” Finny says. I shrug as he pulls into the driveway. “Well, what are you gonna to do?”

“I dunno,” I say. He parks the car and doesn’t say anything else. I run my fingers through my hair again and again and stare straight ahead. I feel the lump coming up in my throat and I try to push it down again.

“Hey, Finny?” I whisper. “What?” he says.

“I’m scared that I’m going to call him.”

“Why?” he says. Form the corner of my eye, I see him turn and look at me.

“Just to yell at him.”

He shakes his head. “That’s not a good idea.”

“I know. But I’m used to being able to call him. I’m used to telling him that I’m angry or sad or whatever.” I swallow and take a breath. “It’s like I need him to help me get over him.”

“You don’t need him,” Finny says. I don’t say anything. My vision is going blurry, and I am concentrating on not crying in front of him. “Autumn? Hey,” he says.


“Why don’t you hang out in my room today? I was just going to play a video game. You can read or whatever. I won’t let you call him.”

“Okay,” I say.


“Okay,” I say louder.

“All right. Come on.” He walks around the car and opens the door for me, and I follow him.

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