Chapter Nine: The Call (Austin's POV)

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          I’m deep in thought when I hear the phone ring. Startled, I grope around in the early-morning darkness, trying to find the phone. I think it’s Anna’s, since the ringtone is different from mine. 

            By the time I pick it up, it’s stopped ringing. First, I see the text notification. It reads:

            Aria: Please text me! I have so much to tell you!

            I look up for a moment. It can’t be the same Aria. There’s no way in hell. Then the phone rings again. Call from Aria. Instead of waking Anna up, I pick up myself. I’m so curious to find out if it’s the same Aria.

            “Anna! How come you never are awake late when I need you to be, yet on Monday night, you texted me at three A.M.?”

            “Uh…this isn’t Anna….She’s sleeping.”

            Shit.

            It’s the same Aria.

            “Then why are you picking up her phone? Her one-night stands usually don’t pick up her phone.”

            Low blow.

            “Wait. You sound familiar. “

            I. Am. So. Dead.

            “Are you the guy who…Wait! Holy shit…”

            “What?” I poorly try to disguise my voice with a fake Brooklyn accent.

            “You’re Austin! Holy shit! You slept with Anna?” For some reason, she begins to laugh.

            “Uh, yeah.”

            “That’s a coincidence. Anna’s my best friend. And I just slept with my ex. So I guess we’re even.”

            It’s pretty ironic. I laugh.

            “Listen, tell Anna later that you’re the waiter guy that Aria mentioned?”

            “Okay. Looks like we’re starting out on a pretty dysfunctional foot.”

            “Yup.  We should have a redo of our first date, because all in all, I think we both screwed up. Oh, yeah, and Austin, now that we’re making confessions, can I tell you something?”

            “Sure. Since we’re messing ourselves up already, might as well completely screw us up.”

            “The reason I was late today was because I encountered my ex in the train station. And he kissed me. And it was totally disorienting.”

            “Well then.” I suck in a breath. “We really should start from the beginning. But I must ask, who’s the ex?”

            “His name’s Derek. I’m kinda sorta in his apartment right now.”

            “Is he hot?”

            “If we’re doing the whole 100% disclosure thing…yes. Very.”

            “Hotter than me?”

            I hear her sigh. “Don’t play that game with me. It’s been hard enough to choose. I could have hung up the minute I heard it was you and run back to Derek.”

            “How come you’re not?”

            “Not what?”

            “Running back to him?”

            “Because he cheated on me. Even though we’re really into each other, a relationship can’t function without trust.”

            “How do you know that I’m trustworthy?”

            “Because you admitted that you slept with Anna. Don’t worry, I’m not pissed.”

            “Good. I’m not pissed either.”

            A long silence passes. “So where do we go from here?” I ask.

            “Back to the start, I guess. Unless you want Anna.”

            “I thought I did for a little bit.”

            “Why?”

            “Because she seemed more real. I thought that because you’re rich, you’re not human.”

            “Well, I am. And I think my total and utter screw-up tonight proves it.”

            “So let’s start over then. I’m Austin. I’m poor. I’m a waiter. But at least I look good in a tux. I live in a cheap apartment above a Chinese restaurant near Bryant Park. Yes, your parents will hate me. No, I can’t cook. Yes, I am a klutz. But I’m kickass at getting wine stains out. “

            She laughs. “I’m Aria. I’m rich, but I used to be poor. Before my mother married Ned Rochester, we lived in a shabby apartment. Now we live in a penthouse. Ummmm….I can cook. I’m a klutz too. Your parents will either hate me or love me.”

            “Well then. We have to have a first date. Even if your dad’s the Ned Rochester.”

            “Yes, he is. May I suggest the totally cheesy venue of a ferry ride from Staten Island to Battery Park? Free, fast, and fun.”

            “Sounds like a date. Tuesday at seven?”

            “Sure. See you.”

            “See you.”

            And like that, my decision’s been made.

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