Chapter no 17

If Only I Had Told Her

Part of me had hoped that Sylvie also felt we were drifting apart and suspected something so that I didn’t completely blindside her, but I didn’t expect this.

We stare at each other with only the sound of the rain between us. “What do you know?” I ask after a moment.

“Everything,” she says, which can’t be true. I didn’t even know everything until last night. And Jack wouldn’t have called her before I arrived.

“Like what?” I hadn’t known I could feel more guilty, but apparently there’s no end to that well.

“Are you kidding me?” Sylvie is as surprised as she is furious. “Every time you and Autumn went to Blockbuster this summer, I got at least two emails about it from people who saw you. You didn’t even try to hide it.”

“Until recently, we were only friends,” I begin to explain, but she’s right. It’s no defense.

“Shut up and drive somewhere,” Sylvie says. “I haven’t told my parents that you’re breaking up with me tonight. They think you have some romantic gesture planned. I needed to yell at you before I figure out how to disappoint them again.”

“They won’t be disappointed in you because of what I did, Sylvie,” I say.

Her seat belt clicks into place. “I’m not looking forward to explaining this to them, okay? But I have Dr. Giles for talking about my fear of disappointing authority figures. You don’t get to give me pep talks anymore. Not after the lies you’ve told me.”

“I–I—” I cannot say I never lied to her. I lied to her years ago when I told her that I wasn’t in love with Autumn anymore, and I lied by omission all summer.

I suggest we go somewhere that we can sit and talk, but she says she won’t be able to yell at me if we go to a coffee shop.

“Why don’t you focus on driving and listening, okay, Smith? Because I have a list of questions I need you to answer.”

Then Sylvie Whitehouse pulls a handwritten list out of her purse and smooths it on her lap. It would make me laugh with love for her if it didn’t also make me want to cry for the same reason. I wish she and Autumn could be friends.

“First of all,” Sylvie says, and I swallow my emotions and pay attention. “When was the first time you cheated on me?”

“Last night,” I reply, but that question takes the longest to answer, because she does not believe me.

It takes so long to convince her that nothing physical happened with Autumn until last night that I drive us over the river and into the rural plains outside East St. Louis. The rain comes down harder, and lightning strikes flash across the sky, stealing our words from us. It feels jarringly intimate.

“So you did…whatever it was that you did with her last night, Finn.”

I don’t need to look away from the road to know she’s rolling her eyes. “But that doesn’t mean that you were faithful this summer,” she


I drive, and we argue about the definition of cheating.

Our argument would have lasted longer had Sylvie not been on the speech and debate team, but we would have ended in the same place. Because she’s right.

This didn’t start last night.

From the phone call all those weeks ago when I told Sylvie, “I’m about to eat breakfast,” and didn’t disclose that it was with Autumn, I was betraying Sylvie.

I told myself that I wasn’t talking about Autumn during our phone calls for Sylvie’s sake, but that wasn’t true. I didn’t tell Sylvie that Autumn and I were friends again because I didn’t want to explain we were platonic friends. When Sylvie called from Europe and asked what I’d been up to, I’d say, “Watched a movie,” and leave out “with Autumn,” let alone “with Autumn in my bed, and when she fell asleep before it ended, I muted it and lay beside her.”

After I’d decided that I was breaking up with Sylvie, I considered answering honestly, giving her a chance to suspect something, but when she asked what I was up to, I would say, “Nothing,” instead of “Autumn and I parked near the airport and watched planes take off while she ate so much candy her teeth have turned green.”

“You’re right,” I say as we cross the bridge back into the city. “I lied to you all summer. I’m sorry.”

“So you get that this isn’t only about last night?”

“Yeah,” I say, “I get it.” We’re back in Missouri. I turn north, toward home. It’s still raining, but the thunder is far away.

“My second question,” Sylvie says. “Were you ever in love me?”

“Syl,” I start, but I don’t know where to begin. I stay on the highway, passing all the exits that could take us home.

“Were you ever in love with me?” Sylvie repeats. Her voice is firm, but she’s saving her anger. “I don’t want to hear that you cared about me or about any other kind of love besides romantic. No more lies by omission.”

I take a deep breath. “I am in love with you, Sylvie.” I wait for her to protest. There’s only the sound of the rain and the windshield wipers.

“I believe you,” Sylvie replies.

I’m so surprised that my mind shuts down. I wait for her to say something so I know what to think next.

“I can’t ask you to apologize for loving her more than me.”

“I don’t love her more than you,” I interject. I can see her body shift in her seat out of the corner of my eyes. “It’s not about more.”

“What’s it about then?” Her question almost twists into a laugh.

“Our souls.” I know how ridiculous I sound. But I owe Sylvie the truth, even if it’s proof of what a fool I am.

“Your what?”

I take a deep breath.

“Whatever our souls are made of, hers and mine are the same.”

“Wh—Are you—” Sylvie is so rarely without words that I instinctively glance over at her. She is pink and angry. “Are you quoting Wuthering Heights to justify cheating on me?”

“No,” I say. “I can’t justify that.” I grit my teeth and swallow the lump in my throat, because it’s time to tell the cruelest truth. “I’m quoting Wuthering Heights to explain why I’m choosing Autumn over you.”

The wipers are too loud against the windshield, and I turn down their urgency. The rain is slowing. The streetlights are on. I occupy myself with adjusting the air so that the windows don’t fog.

“You should let me out,” Sylvie says and clears her throat.

I glance from the road to her face. Tears stream down her cheeks. Her calm voice had disguised what the streetlights reveal.

“I’ll take you home,” I say quietly. The suburban road is empty. I turn on my blinker to make a U-turn.

Sylvie says, “No, I mean let me out here.”

I make the turn anyway. Sylvie unbuckles her seat belt.

“Syl,” I say as I drive toward her house, speeding up a bit. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve been enough of a bastard already. I’m not letting you walk home in the rain.”

“I just want to get away from you!” she screams.

I glance at her, but I’m not sure what happens after that. The road is wet, and the car is sliding. I try to brake and turn, but we’re going too fast toward the ditch. We’re spinning.

This could be it. This could be how I die. We hit something.

Suddenly, everything is still.

What happened? I’m still alive. My face hurts. I touch my upper lip, and my hand comes away with blood. The airbags didn’t go off. Did I hit my face on the steering wheel? Why is there glass?

I look to my right to—


Where is she? Did she get out?

And then I see her.

On the other side of the low median we hit, sprawled across the wet asphalt.

She’s crumpled. Surely broken. I am…okay. I can move.

Get to Sylvie. Tell her to lie still. Make the call.

Get Sylvie to the hospital. Go home to Autumn.

With a plan in place, I climb out of the car and run across the rain- soaked pavement to her.

I fall to my knees in front of Sylvie, putting my hand to the ground. It’s wet—

You'll Also Like