Chapter 24

Cover 1

“Hey there.”

Lena nudged me and nodded to someone next to us.  “I think he’s talking to you.”

“What?  Oh!  Hi.”  The young man was standing beside me, invading my private space as he leaned toward me.

“Are you having a nice night?”

I could barely hear him over Lena’s snickering in the background.  “Fantastic.”

Somehow he missed the sarcasm laced in my reply.  “That’s good.  I haven’t seen you around here.  Do you come here often?”

“Yes, actually.  I’ve been here every Thursday for the past five months.”  Give or take a day.

There was no point in lying, or being polite.  If there was one thing Remington had unknowingly taught me it was that manners were overrated.

“I wonder why I haven’t seen you.”

“Probably because I haven’t wanted to be seen.”

He grinned.  “It’s a good thing that has changed.”

“It hasn’t,” I returned acidly.

“Oh, um… right.  Well, have a good night.” He stuttered before escaping.

“Yeah, I will,” I muttered to his retreating form.

Lena laughed hysterically as the boy slinked away.  At least that’s what I thought she had been laughing at.

“Hey, Meredith, do you remember me?”

I glanced at the next intruder so quickly that his image didn’t have time to focus.  “Nope.”

He cleared his throat, and I looked at him once more.  There was something vaguely familiar about his husky features.  “I’m Billy.”


“You don’t remember me at all?”

“Oh!  Billy!  I remember now.”  And I would promptly like to forget him.

He grinned; his meaty face dimpled confidently.  “Awesome.  I hoped I had made an impression.”

“Oh, you did.”  A bad one.  “You’re the one who had never been turned down before, right?  Did you show up for round two?”

He opened his fishy lips twice and then stepped away faster than a man with a bladder control problem who had to pee.

“Do I smell funny or something?” I asked Lena without turning to face her.


“Because I swear I’m giving off some sort of scent.”

Lena leaned toward me to take a whiff.  “Same as always.”

“It’s like every guy in this place has asked me out or tried to hit on me.”  I glared at the group of men surrounding me like sharks circling a bloody limb in chummed water.  Didn’t they know they were supposed to hit on Lena and ignore me?

My friend giggled at my discomfort.  “They’ve been waiting a long time.”

“Yeah, right.  It’s the end of the semester and they’re just out of options.”

“No way!  Good news travels fast,” she contradicted.

“I still haven’t forgiven you for that,” I reminded her.

“You will.”

“Have I told you lately that you are obnoxious?”

“Not since lunch.”

“Well, it remains true tonight.  Would you look there? Here comes your boyfriend.”

Lena didn’t respond to the dig.  She smiled beautifully and went to greet Alec and Remington.  I retreated from the group to take my place at the corner table.  Remington bought his drink and came to join me.

“You look different.”

Different?  I couldn’t look good or beautiful, I had to look different.

“Thanks,” I mumbled.

He rudely didn’t say, “you’re welcome,” so I assumed he’d meant it as an insult.

Why do you look different?” He was still staring at me; the assessing gaze made me nervous.  He had never looked at me for such a lengthy period of time.

“You tell me,” I challenged.  “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”

At least he hadn’t been like every other guy in here and asked me out.  I felt a pang of something in my gut but I couldn’t put a name to the feeling.  What would I have said if he had asked me out?

One more week, I reminded myself.  Ten days and this would all be over.  What was I going to do without Lena around to pester me?  She was laughing at something Alec had said.  Remington’s eyes followed mine, and together we stared at the boisterous couple.

“What are you going to do without her?’ he asked, reading my mind.

“Without who?” I asked, buying myself some time before formulating an answer.


All I ever did was complain about her and her nutty compulsions, but she had always been right; this wouldn’t last forever.  There was going to be an end to our era together.  Lena Whyte would eventually grow up and become overwhelmed with her own responsibilities; Lena would become un-fun like me.

“Probably become even more boring and antisocial,” I finally answered.

More antisocial?  You’re out almost every Thursday night.”

“But I’m not exactly socializing,” I pointed out.

I took in the various groups of people milling about in the crowded bar.  There were close-knit women who only wanted to be left alone with their mojitos, smaller groups of anxious young men, and those that had melded together.

I could take or leave the presence of every person in the bar, save two of them.  If I never saw their nameless faces again my life would remain unaffected.  But Lena was one person I could not live without.  And, as mortifying as it was to admit, I would miss Remington as well.

Lena and I had been intertwined for so many years now that I could never really lose her; she was a part of me.  But Remington… I had a horrible feeling that I was one of those people whose absence would leave him unaffected.  I wasn’t ready to give up our odd conversations and painful silences.

“Are you ready for this to be over?”

“This?”  Had I been that easy to read?

“Thursdays,” he clarified.

“Are they going to start skipping from Wednesday straight to Friday?” I teased, reluctant to provide him with an honest answer.

“You know what I meant.”


“No, you don’t know or no, you’re not ready?”

“I’m not ready,” I whispered.  I would never be ready.

“What’s bothering you?” Remington asked quietly.

“Nothing,” I lied.

“You’re lying.  When you worry your nose gets a wrinkle above it.”  He lifted his finger to point at the bridge of my nose.

“No, it doesn’t.”  How could he know that?

“Are you going to tell me?”

“Since when did we become confidants?”

“Sometimes it helps to talk it out with a neutral party,” he offered.

“No one is neutral.”  At least I didn’t want him to be neutral.  I wanted Remington to be biased, to be so far on my side that he couldn’t even see the dividing line.  But he couldn’t be, not really.  Because, neutral or biased, I would never reveal to him what had been troubling me.

“I know.”  Remington smiled sadly and resumed his people-watching.

He had been attempting to be cordial, the least I could do was play nice. “Are you ready for finals?”

“Is anyone really ready for finals?”

“Good point.  I bet you’re ready for them to be over though.”

“Of course.  Although summertime will only bring more classes.”

“But at least it should be warm outside.”  Should was the key word.  When you lived on top of a mountain the temperature rarely met the standards associated with that particular season.

“Why did you choose medicine?”  And why hadn’t I asked him before this?

“I’m good at science.”

That was the most generic answer I had ever heard.  “I was good at English, but you don’t see me trying to write a book.”  I grinned when he turned toward me with an incredulous expression.

“I know it sounds corny but I think I can help people.  Wasting a talent is unforgivable.”  His serious tone touched my heart.  How this rude, beautiful man had been able to do that was beyond me.

“That’s not corny, it’s sincere.”

He shrugged.  “Same thing most of the time.”

It was getting late, but Lena and Alec showed no signs of leaving.  We were so close to the end of the semester that I didn’t mind closing the place down.  I settled comfortably in my chair, enjoying every last moment of one of my last Thursdays.

“I missed you this week.”

The declaration nearly knocked me off of my stool.  “What?!” I squeaked, no volume coming behind my words.

Remington glared at me.  “You heard me.”

“Yeah, but I don’t think I heard you correctly.”

He gave me a confused look.  I stared at him until my eyes were crossed.  He turned back to watch the thinning crowd, without a care in the world.

“Oh, you heard me correctly.”

The man didn’t even like me.  “But you don’t even like me!”

He whipped around toward me, angry. “Who told you that?”

“No one needed to; it was obvious to everyone, including me.”

“You don’t know how wrong you are,” he said evenly.

“Oh really?  Tell me one time when you were nice to me,” I challenged, my head was spinning like a cyclone filled with twisted memories.

“What does that have to do with anything?”

Remington would be the type of person to fail to see the correlation between the two.  “Normal humans are nice to those they like.”

“I was nice to you when we were at that costume thing last month.”

The incident was clear in my mind, as though it had occurred yesterday.  “Maybe,” I hedged.  “But the fact that you ditched without a word cancels out the whole incident.”

“Regardless, I was nice to you.”

“Alright.  Tell me of a time when you were nice to me that wasn’t followed by a bout of unforgivable rudeness or one of your disappearing acts,” I qualified.

Remington scowled at me, silent.

“Told you so.”

“Your point doesn’t prove anything.”

“Sure it does,” I said snidely.  “It proves that you don’t even like me.”

Why did that fact twist in my gut and churn my stomach?

“Unfortunately, I feel considerably more for you than mere like.”

“Unfortunately?”  I snickered, unable to move past the first word in his sentence.  “Disclaimers like that prove my point.”

Instead of arguing he made a move to leave, to run away.

“How do you do that?”

“Do what?” he asked reluctantly, not bothering to direct his question toward me.  Instead, he spoke to the empty darkness that marked the hollow corner of the bar.

“You say things like that then walk away so easily.”

Easily?”  He turned and took a menacing step toward me.  I crossed my arms, challenging him.  “You think hearing them is hard, try walking away afterward.”

“Then why do you do it?”  Why couldn’t he stay and make me believe he had meant what he had said?

“Because I can’t stay.”

“Why not?”  Just stay this once.

“Because…” he looked like he wanted to say more but thought better of it.

“Thanks for clearing that up,” I whispered to the void he left behind.

* * *

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