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November 9(10)
Author: Colleen Hoover

“Hopefully everything. I don’t really want to put a cap on it yet, I’m only eighteen. I kind of want to try it all, but my passion is definitely novels. And poetry.”

A quiet sigh leaves her mouth before she takes another bite. I don’t know how, but it feels like my answer just made her sad.

“What about you, Fallon the Transient? What’s your life goal?”

She shoots me a sidelong glance. “Are we talking about life goals now or what our passion is?”

“Not much of a difference.”

She laughs half-heartedly. “There’s a huge difference. My passion is acting, but that’s not really my goal in life.”

“Why not?”

Her eyes narrow in my direction before she looks back down at her container again. She begins stirring at the frozen yogurt with her spoon. She sighs with her entire body this time, like she’s crumbling to the ground.

“You know, Ben. I appreciate how nice you’ve been since we became a couple, but you can stop with the act. My dad isn’t here to witness it.”

I was about to take another bite, but my hand freezes before the spoon hits my mouth. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask, baffled by the nosedive this conversation just took.

She stabs at her yogurt with the spoon before leaning over and tossing it into a trash can beside her. She pulls a leg up and wraps her arms around it, facing me again. “Do you really not know my story or are you just pretending not to know?”

I’m not really sure which story she’s referring to, so I give my head a slight shake. “I’m so confused right now.”

She sighs. Again. I don’t think I’ve ever made a girl sigh this much in such a short amount of time. And they aren’t the kind of sighs that make a guy feel good about his skills. They’re the kind of sighs that make him wonder what the hell he’s doing wrong.

She picks at a piece of loose wood on the back of the bench with her thumb. She focuses on the wood as if she’s talking to it, rather than to me. “I got really lucky when I was fourteen. Landed a role in a cheesy, teenage spin on Sherlock Holmes meets Nancy Drew called Gumshoe. I starred in that show for a year and a half and it was starting to do really well. But then this happened.” She motions to her face. “My contract was pulled. I was replaced and I haven’t acted since. So that’s what I mean when I say that goals and passions are two separate things. Acting is my passion, but like my father said, I no longer have the tools it takes to achieve my life goal. So I guess I’ll be looking for a new one soon, unless a miracle happens in New York.”

I don’t even know what to say to that. She’s looking at me now, waiting for a response, but I can’t think of one fast enough. She rests her chin on her arm and stares off behind me.

“I’m not very good with on-the-spot motivational speech,” I say to her. “Sometimes at night, I’ll rewrite conversations I had during the day, but I’ll change them up to reflect everything I wish I could have said in the moment. So I just want you to know that tonight when I write this conversation down on paper, I’ll say something really heroic and it’ll make you feel really good about your life.”

She drops her forehead against her arm and laughs. The sight of it makes me smile. “That is by far the best response I’ve ever gotten to that story.”

I lean forward to toss my container into the trash can behind her. It’s the closest I’ve come to her since we were sitting in the booth together. Her entire body stiffens with my proximity. Rather than pull back right away, I look her directly in the eye before focusing on her mouth.

“That’s what boyfriends are for,” I say as I slowly back away from her.

Normally, I wouldn’t think twice about the fact that I’m deliberately flirting with a girl. I do it all the time. But Fallon is looking at me like I just committed the cardinal sin, and it makes me question if I’ve been misreading the vibe between us.

I pull back completely, never shying away from the look of annoyance on her face. She points a finger at me. “That,” she says. “Right there. That’s the shit I’m referring to.”

I’m not sure I know what she’s referring to, so I proceed with caution. “You think I’m pretending to flirt with you to make you feel better about yourself?”

“Aren’t you?”

Does she really think that? Do people really not flirt with her? Is this because of her scars or because of her insecurities about her scars? Surely guys aren’t as shallow as she’s implying. If so, I’m embarrassed on behalf of all men. Because this girl should be fighting off the guys who flirt with her, not questioning their motives.

I squeeze the tension from the center of my jaw and then cover my mouth with my hand while I contemplate how to respond. Of course tonight when I think back on this moment, I’ll come up with all kinds of great responses. But right now . . . I can’t come up with the perfect response to save my life.

I guess I’ll just go with honesty. Mostly honest, anyway. That seems to be the best way to respond to this girl, since she reads through bullshit like it’s written on transparent paper.

Now I’m the one releasing a heavy sigh.

“You want to know what I thought when I saw you for the first time?”

She tilts her head. “When you saw me for the first time? You mean as in one whole hour ago?”

I ignore her cynicism and continue. “The first time you walked past me—before I interrupted your lunch date with your father—I stared at your ass the whole time you were stomping away. And I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of panties you had on. That’s all I thought about the entire time you were in the restroom. Were you a thong girl? Were you going commando? Because I didn’t see an outline in your jeans that hinted you were wearing normal panties.

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