chapter twenty-seven

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Making up with Ben had to have been one of the best decisions I'd ever made. I hadn't experienced a light, airy feeling in my spirit in years: the kind of feeling that makes you think nothing can possibly go wrong. I also didn't mind the fact that he couldn't seem to keep his hands off me since we had admitted our feelings to each other.

"What are you up to?" Ben asked, sliding his arms around my waist from behind and kissing my cheek. He rested his chin on the top of my head and glanced at my phone in my hands. "Wait, why the hell are you texting Cardigan Guy?"

I spun my head to the side and upwards to meet his face. "I'm not texting him. He texted me. I've been avoiding his message for, like, four days, and I feel bad."

"What does he want?" he asked—more like grumbled, but it seemed like he didn't want to ruin things between us so quickly, especially over Jeffrey of all people.

I sighed and placed a hand on top of his arm. "He said he wants to meet up with me to talk. I didn't explain to him that I'm actually a thousand miles away right now, but as I keep rereading this message, I feel like I should at least give this guy a chance to explain himself."

"Actually"—He snatched my phone from my hands. His thumbs whirred over the keypad and typed something into the message box—"There."

I reflexively lunged at him to retrieve my phone before he could press send. "Ben, no!" I cried and managed to pry the device from his strong grip. I breathed a sigh of relief when I noticed the message hadn't been marked as "delivered" yet. Especially since it said something particularly uncharacteristic of me. "Fuck off," I read, narrowing my eyes at him. "Really, Ben?"

"I'm just trying to make things simple," he defended himself, holding his palms out in innocence. I rolled my eyes and erased the two words and stared at the blinking cursor again. Surely there had to be a better way to answer his request, one that didn't involve any profanities.

"Look, if you're worried that I want to get together with him again, you should be very relieved," I began, shifting out of his grip and making room next to me for him to sit. "I have no plans to. If we're a thing now, you should know that I'm the loyalest hoe you'll ever find. It's in my blood."

"The loyalty or the hoeness?" Ben teased, raising his eyebrows jokingly. I slapped his arm.

"You know what I mean." I shut my screen off and rested my legs out in front of me, propping myself up on my elbow. "I just—I feel like there was something off about our breakup, Jeffrey and me. It was almost like he wanted to call it off and didn't want to at the same time."

"Do you think his parents had anything to do with his decision?"

I shrugged. "Maybe. I get this feeling that his mother doesn't really like me. She was kind of...well, racist, the last time I went to their house for dinner. But Jeffrey reassured me that his parents aren't like that, and I don't know what to believe."

"What did she say?" he asked, frowning.

"Nothing too serious. She went off on a weird tangent about the Iraq War, as if I had anything to do with that." I tugged a hand through my wind tousled hair from spending the morning by the pool. "I don't know, Ben, this all just feels weird, which is why I want an explanation." Grabbing my phone again, I added, "I think I'm going to meet up with him after we land in Syracuse."

"If that's what you feel is the right choice, then go ahead," he said, nodding and reaching a hand out to tuck a lock of my wavy hair behind my ear. "This physically pains me to say, but Jeffrey's a decent guy. We used to have to work with each other three times a week in French last semester, and all he used to do was rave about you."

I smirked. "Really now, what did he say?"

"Well, our professor used to yell at us if we didn't speak in French, so it was usually something like Ma copine est la plus belle fille du monde. Basically, you're the most beautiful girl in the world."

Wow, didn't know Jeffrey could be so romantic, I thought, as he had never said that to my face. Disregarding all thoughts about him, however, I joked with Ben, "Could you just speak French from now on? Your American accent really fails to make me swoon."

"I don't know that much of the language, mon chou."

"Did you just call me your cabbage?" That was surely not what I was expecting when I wanted him to woo me in French.

"It's a term of endearment, Samar." Sighing and hopping off my bed, he extended his hand to me. "I think I'll just stick to my boring American, babe. Now let's go enjoy our last full day here."

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