Chapter no 79

If He Had Been with Me

Finny and I stand in the driveway as the car pulls away. I wave and Finny just watches them. My parent’s divorce was finalized today. Coincidently, The Mothers are going to a winery for the weekend. They gave us a hundred dollars for just two days, and Jack is coming over later. We’re going to have pizza and alcohol for dinner and probably stay up all night.

“This is going to be fun,” I say.

“Yeah,” Finny says, and it reminds me of the way he used to say “yeah” to Sylvie at the bus stop as she prattled on and on. I always suspected—no, I just wanted to believe—that he was bored with her.

“Is everything okay?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he says. I look up at him. He’s still staring at the driveway.

“I think I’m going to go over to my house and write,” I say. He looks down at me then.

“Oh, okay,” he says.

“Send me a text when Jack comes over,” I say. “Or whenever you want me to come over.”

“All right,” he says. I turn and walk away then, and I hear him walking away too. I look over my shoulder. He closes the door. I turn away quickly.

An hour later I get a text. I take off my headphones and pick my phone of my desk.

When do I get to read it?

Never, I type back.

How about tomorrow?


Another few hours later, I get another text. I’m lying on my bed staring at the ceiling.

Jack is coming over in half an hour. Ok

Why don’t you come over now? I’m bored.

I smile and swing my legs over the side of the bed.


When Jack knocks on the front door, Finny and I are inside a tent we made of couch cushions, chairs, and quilts. We made it big enough so that all three of us would be able to stretch out inside of it, and we left one side open so that we can watch movies. Finny leads Jack into the living room. He’s carrying a handle of rum and two liters of Coke.

“Hi, Jack.” I stick my head out and wave. “What is that?” he says.

“It’s our cave,” I say. Jack looks at Finny. “Wow, dude,” he says.

“Come on,” Finny says. “I don’t trust you to bartend.” He tugs his arm and Jack follows him out into the kitchen.

“What are you talking about?’ he says. “I’m a great bartender.”

A few minutes later, Jack crouches at the cave’s opening. He hands me my drink and says, “Okay, let’s try this thing out then.”

“You’re going to love it,” I say. I scoot over and he slides in next to me.

He sits cross-legged and ducks his head down to fit.

“Okay,” he says. He looks around the cave. The floor is lined with more quilts and pillows, so it’s like a giant bed inside. “This isn’t bad.”

“Finny and I used to make these all the time,” I say. “Every time one of us slept over. It was a tradition, and since I’ll probably crash here tonight, it

seemed appropriate.”

I take a sip of my drink and make a face; it’s way too strong. Jack laughs and shakes his head.

“That’s weird,” he says.

“What? That I made a face?”

“That your parents let you sleep together.”

“Not like that!” I say. “I told you, it’s never been like that with us.” “Hey,” Finny says. I look up. He’s bending down to peer inside. “Pizza

will be here in an hour.”

“Cool,” Jack says. He scoots over and Finny climbs in. He stretches out next to me, three inches between us. I’m glad that he overheard me, in case he suspected something. As long as he doesn’t know, I’ll be able to keep him close to me.

Finny and Jack clink glasses and take long swigs.

“Me too,” I say. Finny holds his tumbler out and I tap mine against his and take another sip. I shudder afterward and lick my lips.

“That was weak,” Jack says. “We need to teach you how to drink.”

“This drink is too strong,” I say. Jack laughs. I look at Finny for support.

He gives me his lopsided smile.

“Sorry,” he says. “I’m with him on this.”

My heart beats faster, and I take another drink.


The first time I wake up, I am still drunk and Finny is asleep next to me. He’s lying on his back with one arm flung over his eyes. I scoot closer to him, slowly. I lie on my stomach with my forehead pressed into his armpit, nearly on his shoulder. I curl in a ball. My fingers touch his ribs.

When I wake up the second time, the boys are not with me in the cave. I know Finny isn’t there before I even open my eyes. I feel cold and my head hurts.

“How could you have missed that game?” I hear Jack say somewhere in the room. I open my eyes. The light outside the tent is bright; it must be almost noon.

“Autumn and I were at the mall,” Finny says. His voice makes me want to close my eyes.

“You never miss it when the Strikers are on TV,” Jack says. Finny doesn’t reply. I imagine that he has shrugged.

There is a pause, and then Finny says, “I’m going to break up with Sylvie when she gets home tomorrow.” I stiffen, and my stomach rolls. I lay one hand on it. I didn’t know that she was coming home tomorrow. He never told me the date and I never asked.

“I figured,” Jack says. There is another pause. My saliva glands ache and my throat constricts. “Then what?” he asks. His voice is quieter.

“Oh God,” I say. I climb out of the tent. Finny or Jack might say something to me, but I don’t know; I am speeding past them and into the bathroom.

I’m still throwing up when Finny knocks on the door. “Go away,” I say.

“You okay?”

“Yes. Go away.”


When it’s over, I rinse my mouth out and look at myself in the mirror. I look like hell. I run my fingers through my hair.

When I come out, the guys are in the kitchen making toast. I slump down at the table and curl my knees up to my chest.

“Feeling better?” Jack says.

“More or less,” I say. They continue their conversation without me. They aren’t talking about Sylvie and I don’t listen anyway. After a minute, Finny hands me a piece of buttered toast and I eat it quietly. My stomach protests but I keep it down.

Later we finish the movie we started last night, and then Jack leaves. I tell Finny that I am gonna go next door to take a shower. He says okay and

doesn’t ask when I’ll be back.

At home, I huddle in the hot shower with my arms wrapped around my middle. I want him to break up with Sylvie. I don’t want to watch him fall for another girl.

I want him to be in love with me. Like a movie montage I can’t stop, scenes from the summer fly through my mind, moments when I thought, maybe, just maybe—

“Stop it, stop it, stop it,” I say. I squeeze my eyes tightly. “It’s not real,” I say. And the need to write it down overwhelms me and I step out of the shower, dripping and shivering.

In my bathrobe, I sit at my computer and I write for a long time. At first I don’t realize what is happening. I think that I will write a few pages and go back to Finny’s. As the afternoon wanes, my mind starts to feel soft, but I keep pushing. I realize I want this over with. I can’t do this to myself anymore.

I get up twice, once to get a glass of water, once to go to the bathroom.

Both times, I rush back to write what I have been thinking.

Sometimes my hands are flying across the keyboard, other times I stare at the screen for long, silent stretches. Around dinnertime, Finny sends me a text. I send him back one word. Writing.


It’s late in the day now, but it’s still mostly light out. I’m typing the last sentence, the one that’s been in my head for so long now. I’m shaking. I click save. I stare at the screen.

That’s it. That’s all of it.

I’m still in my bathrobe. My hair is dry now. I feel numb, like I did after Jamie broke up with me.


I don’t know how long it has been—it’s starting to get dark, but isn’t quite yet—when Finny knocks on my bedroom door. I know it’s him. I figured he would come eventually. The door creaks as he opens it. I’m sitting on one end of my bed. I’m still in my robe.

“Autumn?” he says. “Hey,” I say.

“I came to check on you,” he says.

“I finished the novel,” I say, and I start to cry. I don’t see him cross the room, but I feel him pull me into a hug. I haven’t ever cried like this in front of him, at least not since we were kids. I lean my head on his shoulder and sob, but it doesn’t last too long because I’m touching him, and he’s holding me. Finny waits until I am quiet to say anything.

“Do you want to tell me what’s wrong?” he says. He hasn’t let me go. I sniffle.

“It’s like they’re dead,” I say. “Like who is dead?”

“Izzy and Aden,” I say. “My main characters.” I feel the tears building up again.

I feel Finny let out a breath. He laughs once through his nose.

“I thought something was really wrong,” he says. Before I realize I’m doing it, I pull away from him in anger.

“Something is wrong!” I say, “Can’t you tell I’m upset?” Finny laughs again. His right arm is still around my shoulders. I make a fist and punch his left one. He still laughs. “Stop laughing at me,” I say.

“Sorry,” he says, but he’s still smiling. “It’s just that it’s really obvious that you’re upset, and I meant I thought something was really wrong, like Jamie had called you.”

“Who cares if Jamie called me?” My voice is shrill. “Who cares about Jamie?” Finny grins. I start to cry again. He pulls me into another hug. “You don’t understand,” I say into his chest.

“I know,” he says. His voice is soothing; I close my eyes. “But I can’t wait to read it,” he says.

“You can’t read it,” I say.

“Why not?” he asks, and I can’t answer him. He doesn’t say anything else. He holds me even after my sniffling stops. It’s dark outside now. I realize I want this over. I can’t do this to myself anymore.

“Okay,” I say. “You can read it after dinner.”

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