PART TWO - Chapter 12

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Emma

I woke up feeling out of sorts. I knew that Zach and I were basically fine, but he definitely hadn't told me the whole story when he got home last night. I'd wanted to talk to him about it over coffee this morning, but the empty spot on his side of the bed and the complete silence in the apartment told me he was already long gone.

I'd just gotten myself a cup of coffee when my phone rang. Wendy. The sight of her name on my screen made me smile. I hadn't realized how much I missed her.

"I just wanted to see how you're liking New York," she said when I answered.

"It's great," I told her, hearing a little bit of Zach in my answer. We all had our reasons for not telling the whole story, I decided. "My classes start next week, and that even includes one class at a local culinary school."

"Oh, honey, that's wonderful. Sounds like you're really doing well."

"I guess I am."

She cleared her throat. "Have you talked to your dad?"

I frowned. Something told me she already knew the answer. "Not much. I sent him a few texts, but things have been so busy." I expected some sort of grandmotherly chastising, but she just went silent. "Are you there?"

"Sorry," she said. "I was trying to think of a good way to start this, but I guess I'll just jump in. Paul told me what happened between you at the party. He hates that what he said upset you."

My hand tightened around the phone. I didn't want to start my day with this conversation. "I hope you don't take this the wrong way, Wendy, but I'm just not ready to talk about it."

"Fair enough," she said. "Then how about we talk about what else is bothering you?"

***

Long after we'd finished talking, Wendy's voice still echoed in my head. She'd been so certain that I should just let go of all of my questions about Kennedy and what Zach wasn't telling me about yesterday. Don't let old insecurities get the best of you, she'd said. And I really wanted to agree with her.

Except I just couldn't. I had to know what I was up against.

When I googled Kennedy, it shocked me to see so many results. We were almost the same age, but no one outside of Pine Falls even knew I existed. That was definitely not true in her case.

My heart sank when I saw that she was also the daughter of a senator—New York instead of Minnesota—and that her mother, because of course, was a former model who now made everyone's lives better by dedicating herself to charity work. Ugh. Why did people like Kennedy get to start life in the most perfect of situations, while others like me had to careen into the world as the product of a teenage mistake?

As I kept googling, I quickly found another difference between us. Unlike me, she had dated a lot of guys, every one of them high profile in some way, and most of them either actors or junior politicians. Which meant they were all super good looking and pretty well off. What sort of deal with the devil had this woman made?

I wanted to stop scrolling, but my curiosity just wouldn't let me. The more I looked, though, the more I shriveled inside. I was so out of my league. Kennedy ran in circles I knew nothing about, circles I hadn't even known existed, to be honest.

"Stop it," I scolded myself, just as my frantic fingers clicked on a link to a charity event. There, right in front of my sad eyes, was an old photo of Zach and Kennedy, dressed to the nines and laughing over what must have been the joke of the century. I stared at their stunning faces for a second, struck by how good they looked together, then read the caption, which suggested that they might be Washington's new young power couple.

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