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Chapter no 8

If Only I Had Told Her

We head into my house without discussion. She’s withdrawn again. I want to reassure her that I’ll love her novel, but I know it won’t help. I gesture to the rum on the counter.

“Do you want me to pour a little in your Coke?” She wrinkles her nose.

“I’m never drinking rum and Coke again.” She adds, “Don’t laugh at me. I might actually mean that.”

“I just thought you might need some liquid courage.” I nod toward the laptop in her arms, cradled like a baby. She hugs it closer.

“Do I have to be here while you read it?” Autumn asks.

“Do you want to go home?” I feel myself frown. I’m not sure which I want more: for her to stay or for me to read it.

“No,” she says quickly.

“I’m not sure what other option you have then.”

Autumn sighs, frustrated by the confines of reality, then marches to the living room. I follow, and she slumps on the couch and opens her computer. A few clicks, and she sits back, then looks over at me. I sit down next to her.

She pushes the computer into my lap and says, “There’s the title page.

Scroll until you’re done. It’s pretty short. Barely a novel.”

“You don’t have to let me read it,” I say as I finger the keyboard, because I feel like I must. As much as I want to read it, I’m starting to worry that she’s not ready to share it.

“No. It’s time.”

I glance at her beautiful, scared face, then begin to read.

“Just don’t think about it too much,” she says quietly, but I’m already falling under the spell of her words.

 

She’s taken a lot from our childhood. That’s obvious. That must be why she’s worried. It isn’t like she took us as kids and wrote it all down though; sometimes the character of Izzy seems like Autumn, but then I see flashes of me in her and pieces of Autumn in Aden. They do the things we did, like using our fingers to draw on each other’s backs at night, and the things we didn’t do but wanted to, like building a tree house.

I glance at Autumn, curled up with a book in the far corner of the couch. I want to tell her that I’m honored to have glimpses of our lives in her book, but I know she’d want me to keep reading.

Izzy has a great, present dad and a runaway mom. Aden’s parents love him but are troubled and emotionally distant, hence his spending so much time next door. Between Izzy’s dad’s constant presence and the occasional support of Aden’s, the two of them have enough parenting to get by. It’s true, and it’s not true.

Autumn isn’t good at drawing, but Izzy is, and she makes Aden comic books of her stories. In reality, I did the drawings for Autumn’s stories, and we made them for ourselves. True and not true again.

It’s like time traveling but to a parallel world. Like a kaleidoscope, the story shifts in my vision. It’s us. It’s not us. It’s us. It’s not us.

And then comes the part that is not us, cannot be us, because Aden is kissing Izzy, and she is kissing him back. I feel my mouth pinch, but I don’t

frown. Distantly, I’m aware that Autumn has switched from reading to watching a movie, and my brain, ever ready to multitask when it comes to Autumn, takes note of her occasional glances at me.

My main focus, though, is on Autumn’s novel. Of course she is worried that I will misunderstand this part. As Izzy and Aden’s romantic relationship begins, I start to see Jamie in Aden: the random gag gifts, the way he stakes his claim over Izzy so publicly. But I still see me. There’re the obvious details, like Aden plays soccer and has blond hair. But it’s more than that, much more.

It’s the way Aden sees through Izzy’s insecurities and appreciates her strengths.

It’s the way Aden grins at Izzy when he says, “I like how you take it for granted that I’ll teach you to drive.”

I get up for a glass of water.

I take a swig of rum from the bottle.

I return to the living room and sit down.

It’s like she’s taken slivers and slices from her life and the lives of people she knows, put them in a blender, and then very heavily seasoned it all with fiction.

There’s a big soccer game where Aden blocks a last-second goal from the other team, preventing overtime, and Izzy runs out on the field and jumps on him even though he’s covered in mud. Sylvie jumped on me after I blocked a pass like that a couple of years ago. Autumn wasn’t there, but I guess she heard about it. Sylvie got in trouble with the cheer captain for muddying her uniform and losing poise or something.

But in the novel, Izzy isn’t wearing a uniform, because Autumn was never a cheerleader. Izzy is and isn’t Autumn. I see flashes of her friends Brooke and Sasha in Izzy too.

Izzy and Aden hang out in the rafters above the stage in their school’s auditorium, which is entirely the sort of thing that Autumn would wish she

could do.

Aden isn’t only me. He’s also Autumn, and he’s also Jamie and maybe other friends that I don’t know well.

But the way that Aden loves Izzy? That is me.

The way he asks her if she’s okay with a look and understands her silent replies? That’s me.

The way Aden tells Izzy to ignore the teachers telling her to consider an education major because she’s too good a writer not to try is me. That’s always been me.

Autumn stands and stretches, but I keep reading. That’s how good the story is. I don’t think most people’s first drafts are this good, are they? She’s a great writer, and she’s only going to make it better.

I stand up and realize Autumn is gone, and I head to the kitchen, get the rum, and settle back on the couch.

I’m finishing this tonight.

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