I stared across the table at him. I got butterflies in my stomach just looking at him. But that was ridiculous. I had met him barely a week ago. On the other hand, I had technically met him long before that. Maybe those feelings were returning?
“I have a question,” I said.
“How long do you think it takes a person to fall in love?”
“I think when you meet the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, you sort of just know. It takes you a little while to completely fall for them, depending on the circumstances, like whether or not they return the feeling, but you know pretty quickly. At least, that’s how it was for me.” He stared intently into my eyes, as if he was trying to read my mind.
I blew on my nails, waiting impatiently for the polish to dry. I could hear Matt talking to Josh downstairs.
I picked up my phone. I saw a notification from Facebook, which I had become addicted to in these past few days. I decided to find Matt’s profile. I realized that I didn’t know his last name, oops…
I scrolled through Josh’s friends until I found him. The first thing that I noticed was that we were already friends. That was weird. Maybe I had friended him before the accident because Josh had mentioned him or something… We also had a lot of mutual friends. Maybe he just friended everyone who was friends with Josh…
I looked through his portfolio. The next thing I noticed was that it said that he was living in Ohio. I shook it off, thinking that he had moved here recently and forgotten to change it.
The thing that finally made everything click into place was the name that was next to “Married to…” It’s not that I thought that we were dating; it’s that it was the name of his dead girlfriend. Maybe he just couldn’t let go. That was understandable.
I clicked on her profile. Ella Carson Abrams. She was gorgeous. I scrolled down to her posts.
The most recent one was from today. It was a picture of her and a little girl. The same little girl that was in the picture Matt had shown me. Not the same little girl that I had seen earlier this week. The caption read, “Layla and I miss you Matt Abrams!” He had commented on the picture, saying, “Miss you guys too! I’ll be home tomorrow, hopefully!”
I was so confused. I stalked down the stairs and into the kitchen, just in time to hear Josh say, “Can’t you stay just a few more days? I just need to come up with a good excuse-”
“No need,” I said.
“Oh! Clara! We were just, um, we were…um..,” Josh stuttered.
“So I took a look at Matt’s Facebook page…”
Their eyes widened simultaneously.
“You use Facebook?” Josh asked.
“I do. So does Matt, who is apparently living in Ohio and is married to his dead girlfriend.”
“I can explain!” Matt said.
“Don’t bother,” Josh said. “This is all on me.”
I gave Matt a hug. “Tell Ella hello for me. I’m guessing I probably already know her. I’m not mad at you. I pretty much have this all figured out.” I glared at Josh.
“Okay…uh, bye, Clara. I’ll talk to you later, Josh.” He left, waving as he shut the door behind him.
“Let’s sit down,” I said, going into the living room and sitting on the couch.
“So, um, I guess I owe you an explanation.”
“Well, I sort of wanted to see if you were actually in love with me or if I was forcing it on you. So I called Matt, who we went to school with, and asked him to come out here and pretend to be interested in you. Ella, who we also went to school with, knew about it and everything. She wasn’t thrilled about it, but neither was Matt. Layla was actually a girl named Ashlyn. I work with her dad and I offered to babysit her.”
“So you thought I could sort my feelings for you out by dating a married man?”
“I didn’t really think the plan through…”
“And what were you going to do when Matt went home?”
“Like I said, I didn’t really think the plan through.”
“And what if I really had fallen for Matt? What if I hadn’t found out the truth until then?”
“I don’t know, Clara! I don’t know! It was stupid and rash but you can’t seem to see that I did it because I loved you!”
“No, I really can’t!”
“You wouldn’t have cared before the accident. You-” He clapped a hand over his mouth, realizing what he had just said. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to say-”
“I’m sick of you telling me what I was like before the accident! I don’t care what I did or didn’t like, or what I did or didn’t do, or anything before the accident! There’s nothing I can do! If you think this sucks for you, try being me for 10 minutes! I don’t know anything or anyone. I have to resist the urge to cry every time another person comes up, expecting me to know them. I have to see the rejected look on everyone’s faces as they realize that I have no idea who they are. I have to rediscover who I am, but make sure everyone else is happy with it. You just don’t understand!” I blew up.
“Clara, I’m sorry-”
“No you’re not. You’re sick of living with some girl who isn’t the Clara you used to love.” I got up from the couch. I started up the stairs. “And you should know that it worked. Your stupid plan worked. I realized that I am in love with you.” I stormed up the stairs and into my room. I wasn’t even crying anymore. I was just angry, so angry that I couldn’t see straight.
I dialed Mollie’s number. She answered on the third ring. “Clarie-Clara!”
“We had a fight,” I said. “A really bad fight.”
“Are you alright?”
“Take a taxi to the airport. Get on the next plane to the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport. They have them from Maryland all the time. Text me which flight you’re on, and I’ll meet you at the airport in a few hours. Don’t drive, okay? You’re too upset.”
“Okay.” I took a deep breath. “Thank you.”
“No prob, babe. See you in a little while.”