chapter eleven

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Ben ignored me for the rest of the day.

While I was slightly offended at first, my offense turned into admiration at how professional he was at ignoring people. For one, we were staying a room apart; therefore, that itself made completely blocking out another person a challenging task.

He executed it perfectly. It did help that he was around five inches taller, so he wasn't forced to make eye contact with me when he walked by. It also really helped my parents loved Ben unconditionally, and he could spend the day sucking up to them just to annoy me.

That was probably why my mom pulled me into her room in the early evening, a bit against my will.

"Could we talk for a moment, Samar?" She folded her arms across her loose white shirt, which contrasted against her already sun-kissed arms. Mine were almost getting there.

"Well, I don't seem to have much of a choice here..." This was usually the case with my mother. A common example was with food and beverages, like when she asked, "Do you want me to make you tea?" And then I'd say no because I was a coffee person, and ten minutes later I'd find mint tea in the largest mug we owned waiting for me on the kitchen counter. And then if I didn't drink it, she'd complain that I was wasting money, as if I'd ever asked for it in the first place.

"You're right. I just noticed today that you were talking to someone at the pool, which somehow led to Ben falling into the water. Dad and I got a good laugh out of that, but who was that man?"

I sucked in a breath, knowing what was unfolding. The moment I spoke to any guy that wasn't Ben, there followed a dating interrogation. "He's just someone I met at breakfast today. I've barely talked to him, Mama."

"Yes...but it seemed like you were getting along."

"So were we supposed to fight or..." She narrowed her dark eyes at me, as she knew I clearly understand what she was insinuating. I dropped my hands against the sides of my white jeans and sighed. "Is this because Ben has been avoiding me all day?"

"He has?" Oh, so she didn't notice.

"Well, sort of. I mean, it probably has something to do with getting knocked into the pool by the guy we were talking about. Which was an accident, by the way.

It grew quieter between us for a few moments after this, and I shifted uncomfortably in my spot near the door. I knew she had more to say to me, but I wasn't sure I was prepared for what she was going to say.

"Samar, ya elbi, I think you don't realize something." She stared directly into my eyes as she said this, which made me draw back slightly. "Ben likes you."

"Well, yeah—"

"No, I mean more than you think he does. And for much longer than you think he has."

There was something about your own mother telling you the truth that was far different than anyone else it. Maybe it was because she spoke with such conviction, or maybe it was because you knew she loved you, so why would she lie?

But even if it wasn't a lie, it didn't mean I believed it.


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We had plans to begin being classic Floridian tourists tomorrow, so we were maximizing our day in at this luxurious hotel to the limit, which really meant eating even more.

I'd only been here two days, yet I already felt like my jeans were tighter around my waist. I found myself staring at the mirror too long to somehow alleviate my unjustified insecurities and had to rip my gaze away and busy myself with responding to Aimee's numerous texts.

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