Authors: Colleen Hoover
She goes to the couch to sit with Elijah.
“I made breakfast burritos. Left you some on the counter.”
Clara perks up. “Bacon or sausage?”
,” she whispers. She gives her attention back to Elijah. “I love you, buddy, but I have breakfast to eat.”
I shoot Jonah a text around ten to let him know Elijah’s fever has gone down a little. He responds at noon.
Jonah: Is he sleeping at all?
Me: Not really. I bet he’ll crash once his fever finally breaks, though.
Jonah: Hopefully he waits until I’m ready to crash. This has been the longest day and it’s only noon. The breakfast was a godsend. Thanks for that.
Me: I have a roast in the crockpot. Clara and I won’t eat it all, so I can send some home with you when you pick up Elijah.
Jonah: Perfect. Thanks again.
Two hours later, I get another text from Jonah.
Jonah: Is he asleep yet?
Me: He took a fifteen minute nap. Still has fever, but he’s not as fussy as he was.
Then, a text from Clara.
Clara: Miller and I need to work on our project after school. We’ll be at Starbucks.
Me: What project? This is the first I’m hearing about a project with Miller.
Clara: Jonah partnered us up for the UIL film submission. We have less than 4 months to finish.
I text Jonah.
Me: You partnered Clara up with Miller Adams on the film project?
Jonah: Yes. Is that an issue?
Me: I’m assuming in more ways than one, considering he introduced her to drugs. And Chris already told her to stay away from him.
Jonah: Miller isn’t as bad as you seem to think he is. Chris didn’t even know the kid, so his opinion doesn’t count.
Me: I’ve formed my own opinion of the kid. He talked Clara into leaving her father’s funeral. He got her high. And according to a voice mail I received from the school, they both had detention last week due to PDA. She never did any of this before he was in the picture. And even if he’s not the cause of her actions, I’d still rather her be with someone who would talk her OUT of doing those things, rather than be the type of teenage boy to encourage her behavior.
Jonah: I don’t think that kind of teenage boy exists in real life.
Morgan: You’re not making me feel better about this.
I wait for his response, but I don’t get one.
I spend the rest of the afternoon trying to keep Elijah awake so that he’ll sleep for Jonah tonight, but once six o’clock hits, there’s no hope left. He’s out cold. His tiny body is limp in my arms, deep in sleep as I place him in his bassinet. His fever finally broke a couple of hours ago, so I think the worst is over, but I have a feeling after Elijah sleeps for a few hours, he’ll be up all night with Jonah. Maybe I should offer to keep him for the night so Jonah can rest.
I pull out my phone to text Jonah those exact words when he knocks on the front door. I look down at Elijah, and the sound doesn’t even make him flinch. When I open the front door, I whisper, “He just fell asleep.”
Jonah is no longer wearing a tie. The top two buttons of his shirt are undone, and his hair is messier than it was this morning. He looks even better than he did this morning, despite the exhaustion consuming him.
Why am I even having these thoughts?
I motion for him to come to the kitchen so I can make him a plate of food to take with him. I pull Tupperware from the cabinet.
“Have you already eaten?” Jonah asks.
“I’ll just eat here, then.” He opens the cabinet next to me, where I keep the plates, and he removes two of them. I replace the Tupperware in the cabinet and take a plate from him.
This is good. This is casual. Friends eat food together.
We both make our plates and take a seat at the table. As normal as it is for two people to eat a meal together, Jonah and I have never done so without Chris and Jenny. That part seems off. Like there are two huge gaping holes sucking the comfort out of the meal.
“This is really good,” Jonah says, taking another bite. “So were your burritos.”
“Is everything you cook this good?”
I nod confidently. “I’m a great cook. Chris hated going out to eat because he said restaurants never compared to what he got at home.”
“How was he not fat?” Jonah shakes his head. “I’d get so fat eating this every day.”
“He worked out twice a day. You know that.”
It feels weird talking about Chris like we don’t hate him, but I like it. Eventually, I’d like to remember all the good memories without the shadow of the bad ones. We had a lot of good memories together.
I point my fork at him. “With that boy. All your fault.”
Jonah laughs. “He’s still one of my favorite students. I don’t care what you think of him.”
“What kind of student is Clara?”
“Great,” he says.
“No, for real. Don’t tell me what I want to hear. I want to know what she’s like when she’s not around me.”
Jonah regards me quietly for a moment. “She’s good, Morgan. Really good. Always turns her homework in on time. Makes good grades. Doesn’t act up in class. And she’s funny. I like her sarcasm.” He smiles. “She gets that from you.”
“She is a lot like I was at that age.”
“She’s a lot like you are now. You haven’t changed.”
I release a half-hearted laugh. “Okay.”
He looks at me with a little too much seriousness. “You haven’t. At all.”
I look down at my plate and mindlessly scoot food around. “I don’t know if that’s a compliment. It’s kind of pathetic that I’m still the same person I was at seventeen. No education. No work experience. Not a single thing to put on my résumé.”
Jonah stares at me a moment, then looks down at his plate, poking his fork into a carrot. “I wasn’t talking about your résumé. I’m talking about everything else. Your humor, your compassion, your levelheadedness, your confidence, your discipline.” He pauses for a quick breath, then says, “Your smile.” He shoves the bite of food into his mouth.
I look down, completely losing the smile he’s referring to, because I felt that. Everything he just said. Every compliment felt like darts stabbing at my heart. It makes me sigh. I lose my appetite. I stand up and toss the remaining food from my plate into the trash can.
I rinse the plate off in the sink. My chest is constricted. My hands are shaking. I don’t like that I’m having a physical reaction to his presence, but friends don’t say those things to friends while having the look in their eyes that Jonah just had.
He still has feelings for me.
I don’t know how to process that because it fills me with so many more questions. Jonah brings his empty plate to the sink and rinses it under the water. I pull my hands back and grip the counter, staring into the sink.
He’s standing next to me, staring at me.
I can’t look at him. I’m embarrassed that I even feel anything right now, but I do, and it’s confusing, because all I feel is jealousy. It’s a feeling that’s always been there, but it’s something I’ve never allowed myself to acknowledge. But the jealousy is there, and it’s loud, and it’s forcing me to confront it.
“Why did you sleep with her last year?”
As soon as the question passes my lips, I regret it. But since the day Jenny came home from Jonah’s father’s funeral and told me she’d had a one-night stand with him, I’ve been full of anger. It somehow felt as if Jonah had betrayed me, even though he didn’t belong to me.
Jonah takes a step closer. Not close enough that we’re touching, but close enough that it feels like we are. “I don’t know. Maybe because she was there,” he says quietly. “Or maybe because you
I cut my eyes to his. “I wouldn’t have slept with you, if that’s what you’re saying.”
what I’m saying. What I mean is that I was hurt that my father died and you weren’t there. Even though we didn’t keep in touch, you knew about the funeral because Jenny was there.” He sighs regretfully. “Maybe I did it hoping it would hurt you.”
“That’s a terrible reason to sleep with someone.”
He laughs unconvincingly. “Yeah, well, I don’t expect you to understand. You were never in my shoes. You didn’t have to stand on the sidelines and watch the girl you were in love with build a life with your best friend.”
Those words leave me breathless.
He breaks eye contact with me. “Jealousy can make a person do some shitty things, Morgan.” He stands up straight, sensing he’s worn out his welcome. “I should go.”
“Yes.” My voice comes out raspy and coarse. I clear my throat. “You should.”
He nods, disappointed that I’m agreeing with him. He taps the fridge twice with an open palm, then walks out of the kitchen.
As soon as he’s no longer in the same room with me, I refill my lungs with air. His presence still lingers all around me as he gathers Elijah’s things. Before he lifts him out of the bassinet, he pauses and walks back to the kitchen. He stands in the doorway, the diaper bag draped over his shoulder.
“Was it mutual?”
I shake my head a little, revealing my confusion. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“How I felt about you. I could never tell. Sometimes I thought you felt the same way, but I knew you’d never admit it back then because of Jenny. But . . . I need to know. Did you feel what I felt?”
The hammering in my chest is back. He’s never confronted me like this. I wasn’t expecting it. It’s hard to admit something out loud to someone else that you’ve only just admitted to yourself.
Jonah drops the diaper bag to the floor and strides across the kitchen. He doesn’t stop until his body and his mouth are both pressed firmly against mine.
It’s a shock to my system. I grip the counter behind me just as his hold tightens on my cheeks. I feel so much I’m afraid I might sink to the floor.
I press my palms against his chest, fully prepared to push him away, but instead, I find myself pulling him closer with two fistfuls of his shirt.
When he parts my lips with his and I feel his tongue slide against mine, I experience a full-body shiver. It’s so much all at once. It’s an awakening, but it’s also a death. It’s the realization that I’ve gone my whole life being kissed by the wrong man.
Jonah gets the answer to his question by the way I respond to him. His feelings are definitely mutual. They always have been, no matter how much denial I’ve shoveled on top of that mutual attraction.
My body conforms to his like I’m afraid something will wedge itself between us if I let go.
And then, sadly, it does.
It’s the only word I can manage to say, but it’s powerful enough to put a five-foot divide between them. My mother turns away from me. Jonah looks down at his feet.
I just stare at them in disbelief.
I’m shaking my head, trying to convince myself that I didn’t just see that. My mother . . . kissing her dead sister’s fiancé. My mother . . . kissing her dead husband’s best friend.
I take a step out of the doorway, as if the room is contaminated with betrayal and I’m afraid I might catch it. My mother takes a breath and then faces me, tears rimming her eyes. “Clara . . .”
I don’t give her the chance to explain. I don’t really want to know why that was happening. I run to my room because I need solitude before they’re able to reach me. I slam my door and lock it; then for extra reassurance, I scoot my nightstand in front of it.
“Clara, open the door,” my mother says, her tearful voice muffled by the door, her knuckles rapping against it.
“Clara.” Jonah is speaking now. “Please open the door.”
“Leave me alone!”
My mother is crying. I can hear Jonah apologizing, but it’s so quiet I know he’s not apologizing to me. He’s apologizing to my mother.
“Just go,” I hear her say. Jonah’s footsteps fade down the hallway.
She knocks on the door again. “Clara,
open the door. You don’t understand. It’s . . . just open the door.”