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November 9(9)
Author: Colleen Hoover

“You need change?” he asks.

She waves it off. “Keep it.”

The waiter clears off the table and when he steps away, there’s nothing left between us. The imminent end to the meal leaves me feeling a little unsettled, because I’m not sure what to say to keep her here longer. The girl is moving to New York and chances are, I’ll never see her again. I don’t know why the thought of that makes me anxious.

“So,” she says. “Should we break up now?”

I laugh, even though I’m still attempting to discern if she’s got an incredible deadpan wit, or absolutely no personality at all. There’s a fine line between the two, but I’m betting it’s the former. Hoping it is, anyway.

“We haven’t even been dating an hour yet and you already want to dump me? Am I not very good at this boyfriend thing?”

She smiles. “A little too good. It’s weirding me out, to be honest. Is this the moment you break the ultimate boyfriend illusion and tell me you knocked up my cousin while we were on a break?”

I can’t help but laugh again. Definitely deadpan wit. “I didn’t knock her up. She was already seven months pregnant when I slept with her.”

An infectious burst of laughter meets my ears, and I’ve never been more thankful to have a semi-decent sense of humor. I’m not allowing this girl to leave my sight until I get at least three or four more of those laughs out of her.

Her laughter fades, followed by the smile on her face. She glances toward the door. “Is your name really Ben?” she asks, bringing her eyes back to mine.

I nod.

“What’s your biggest regret in life, Ben?”

An odd question, but I go with it. Odd seems completely normal with this girl, and never mind the fact that I’d never tell anyone my biggest regret. “I don’t think I’ve lived through it yet,” I lie.

She stares at me thoughtfully. “So you’re a decent human being? You’ve never killed anyone?”

“So far.”

She holds back a smile. “So if we spend more time together today, you aren’t going to murder me?”

“Only if it’s in self-defense.”

She laughs and then reaches for her purse. She wraps it over her shoulder and stands up. “That’s a relief. Let’s go to Pinkberry and we can break up over dessert.”

I hate ice cream. I hate yogurt.

I especially hate yogurt pretending to be ice cream.

But I’ll be damned if I don’t grab my laptop and my keys and follow her wherever the hell she’s willing to lead me.

• • •

“How have you lived in Los Angeles since you were fourteen without ever stepping foot inside Pinkberry?” She almost sounds offended. She turns away from me to study the choice of toppings again. “Have you at least heard of Starbucks?”

I laugh and point to the gummy bears. The server scoops a spoonful into my container. “I practically live in Starbucks. I’m a writer. It’s a rite of passage.”

She’s standing in front of me in line, waiting for our turn to pay, but she’s looking at my container with disgust.

“Oh, my God,” she says. “You can’t come to Pinkberry and just eat toppings.” She looks up at me like I’ve killed a kitten. “Are you even human?”

I roll my eyes and nudge her shoulder to turn her back around. “Stop berating me or I’ll dump you before we even find a table.”

I pull a twenty out of my wallet and pay for our dessert. We maneuver our way through the crowded restaurant, but there aren’t any free tables. She heads straight for the door, so I follow her outside and down the sidewalk until she finds an empty bench. She takes a seat on it cross-legged and sets her bowl in her lap. It’s the first time I take a look at her bowl and realize she didn’t get a single topping.

I look down at my bowl—full of nothing but toppings.

“I know,” she says, laughing. “Jack Sprat could eat no fat . . .”

“His wife could eat no lean,” I finish.

She smiles and spoons a bite into her mouth. She pulls the spoon out and licks frozen yogurt off her bottom lip.

I wasn’t expecting this today of all days. To be sitting across from this girl, watching her lick ice cream off her lips and having to swallow air just to make sure I’m still breathing.

“So you’re a writer?”

Her question gives me the footing I need to pull my mind out of the gutter. I nod. “Hope to be. I’ve never done it professionally, so I’m not sure I can call myself a writer yet.”

She shifts until she’s facing me and props her elbow on the back of the bench. “It doesn’t take a paycheck to validify that you’re a writer.”

“Validify isn’t actually a word.”

“See?” she says. “I didn’t even know that, so you’re obviously a writer. Paycheck or not, I’m calling you a writer. Ben the Writer. That’s how I’m going to refer to you from this point forward.”

I laugh. “And how should I refer to you?”

She chews on the tip of her spoon for a few seconds, her eyes narrowed in contemplation. “Good question,” she says. “I’m kind of in transition at this point.”

“Fallon the Transient,” I offer.

She smiles. “That works.”

Her back meets the bench when she faces forward. She uncrosses her legs, allowing her feet to meet the ground. “So what kind of writing do you want to do? Novels? Screenplays?”

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