Read The Trouble With Flirting Online
Authors: Rachel Morgan
Tags: #happily ever after, #Humor, #musician, #sweet NA, #Romance, #The Trouble Series, #mature YA, #Love, #comedy, #nerd
Steaming hot water cascades over my head. It rids me of my shivering, but it does nothing to ease the shock of finding Carl here or the terror that I’ve just seriously messed up with Adam.
After realising he was gone, I ran back into the house, told Carl to give me ten minutes, then headed straight for the bathroom. I must have been in here at least twenty minutes by now, though. The hot water’s probably about to run out. I twist the taps off, grab my towel, and rub my skin dry with far more force than necessary. Ugh! Why did Carl have to show up NOW and ruin everything?
I freeze as I hear the tinkle of piano keys. Did Adam come—
No. That’s not Adam. Adam plays a thousand times better than that. Carl is the one at the piano, and I want to tear his fingers away from the keys. How dare he touch that beautiful piano that isn’t his?
I get back to the lounge as I’m pulling a scarf tightly around my neck. Carl’s still playing simple piano melodies, and each tone grates at my nerves. “Don’t do that,” I say, barely managing to keep myself from pushing him off the piano stool and onto the floor.
He swivels around and stands up. “My Alivia,” he says, coming towards me. He always called me by my full name, and I used to love that, but now it makes me want to scream.
“Tell me again,” I say, stepping back so he knows not to pull me into an embrace, “what you’re doing here.”
“Your messages. I—”
“The emails. The ones you’ve been writing all year.”
“Emails? Those emails weren’t for
. They weren’t for anyone.”
His brow furrows. “But … you sent them to my account.”
“Yes—but—it was more like a Dear Diary thing. I was just … sending my thoughts out there so they didn’t have to be in my head anymore. I didn’t know you were actually going to read any of those emails. You gave the password back to me, remember? When you broke up with me? I didn’t think you could get into that email account anymore.”
“Alivia.” He smiles at me. A smile that tells me to stop being silly. A smile I want to slap. “Returning that password was symbolic. I had it memorised, of course.”
“You—it—that password was sixteen random characters! Why would you memorise that?”
He shrugs. “It wasn’t too difficult. And thank goodness I did.” He steps closer and takes both my hands in his. “My Alivia,” he breathes, and damn that accent that always made me want to swoon at his feet. “I couldn’t stop thinking about you. You were in my head, driving me crazy with your laugh and your beautiful smile and the memories of our secret kisses. Finally, last week, when I could take it no longer, I went back to that email account, daring to hope that I might find something there. And I did.”
I close my eyes and groan. Why the heck did I ever think it was a good idea to use emails as a diary?
“You made me laugh with your stories, but my heart ached to see that you had found someone else to be with. And then, I am ashamed to admit, it soared when you told me it hadn’t worked out with him. Alivia.” He brushes his thumb along my jaw, and maybe it’s his sexy accent or those mesmerising dark eyes, but I can’t look away. “You told me you missed me. And that was when I knew I had to come.”
I squeeze my eyes shut and find the strength to push Carl away. “No. You didn’t have to come.” I open my eyes and glare at him. “Why would you come all this way without saying anything to me first? And what about your
? What about the
you’d have to live through if everyone knew you loved me?”
“I’m so sorry I said those things to you. I’m so, so sorry I hurt you. I realised how wrong I was, that I couldn’t live without you, and I told my parents. I told them everything. I told them they couldn’t stop me—”
“Oh, great, I’m sure that went down really well.”
“It did,” Carl says, and, unlike me, he isn’t being sarcastic. “Alivia, they like you. Don’t you remember that?”
“Yes, I actually do remember that. I remember pointing it out to you, and you said, ‘They like you taking care of their children, not marrying one of them.’”
He grasps my hand again, his eyes pleading with me. “I was wrong. I was so wrong. I thought they couldn’t be open-minded, but they can. All this nobility stuff—the titles and everything—it doesn’t mean that much anymore. There are those who want to hang on to it, and I thought my parents were like that, but … they just want their children to be happy. And you, Alivia, make me happy.”
This is all wrong. All mixed up. Why couldn’t he tell me these things last year when I wanted to hear them?
“Remember all the things we whispered about late at night,” Carl says. “Our glittering fairytale future. We can have that, Alivia. We can have it all.”
I could have it all.
But then I think of Adam. I think of the TV episode marathons late at night. Our silly ‘Guess the Composer’ game. Playing music together and laughing over jokes only we understand. I love the way his hair sticks up even when he tries to get it to behave, and how his ears turn red when he’s embarrassed. I love every ‘princess’ name he’s ever called me. He’s the one I run to when things go wrong. The one I want to tell when something exciting happens.
How could I possibly
have it all
if I couldn’t have any of that? If I couldn’t have
“I’m sorry, Carl. I’m sorry you had to come all this way to hear this, but … you and I … it isn’t going to happen.”
“But … you said you missed me. And last year—all the things we spoke about—”
“Yes, that was last year. I was far from home and lonely and swept up in the whole secret romance thing. I would have given you my heart, but fortunately you were sensible enough to end things. I didn’t think of it like that at the time, but I know now it was the right thing.”
“No, Alivia, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. It
“It was. I’m not the right person for you, and you’re not the right person for me. The right person for me is … someone who’s been in front of me the whole time.”
Contempt fills Carl’s eyes as he steps away from me. “That idiot you wrote about in your emails?”
“No. Someone I’ve known for much longer than that. Someone I … can’t picture my life without.”
Carl shakes his head and looks out the window. “I can’t believe this,” he mutters.
“I’m so sorry. You really should have contacted me before coming out—”
“Do you know how embarrassing it will be to go back to my parents and tell them this? After I begged them to let me have you?”
I raise an eyebrow. “
His fingers tap a fast rhythm against his leg. A sign—if I remember correctly from watching him interacting with his parents—that he’s about to lose his temper. “I think I should leave.”
“Probably a good idea.”
“My parents are expecting to see us both back at the hotel, but I suppose they’ll just have to be disappointed.”
“Yes. Family holiday. Don’t you remember me telling you about it?”
“So … you didn’t come all this way just for me.”
He makes an irritated sound and marches to the door. “Goodbye, Alivia.”
“Wait, Carl?” He looks back. “That guy who was here. Did you … did you tell him about my emails to you?”
“He didn’t believe me. Looked at me as if I were crazy and said I must be making things up—”
Oh, thank goodness.
“—so I took out my phone and showed him the emails.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he says, not looking the least bit apologetic. “Is he the one you love? What a shame. I do hope I didn’t mess things up for the two of you.”
Adam doesn’t answer his phone. Hugo answers his, but he hasn’t heard anything from Adam. I knock on Luke’s door to see if he might possibly know anything, but he isn’t there. I know Adam’s got other friends—they’ve been over here a few times to play Xbox a few times—but darn it, I don’t know how to contact any of them.
I wander pointlessly from room to room, telling myself not to panic. This really isn’t a huge deal. It’s just a misunderstanding, and once I’ve explained it to Adam, everything will be fine. Right?
I try to play my violin. I try to get to that place where the music is the only thing that fills my mind.
I can’t stop seeing that look on Adam’s face.
Can’t get more right than royalty, can you?
But I can!
is the right one. But what if he doesn’t believe me? Where will I go if he makes me move out? What if he doesn’t even want to be
My phone rings, and I bellyflop onto the couch in my haste to get to it. Hugo’s name appears on the screen.
“Hello?” I gasp before the phone even gets to my ear.
“Hey, Livi. So, uh, Adam’s probably going to slaughter me for telling you this, but …”
“I called him and he didn’t answer. But he sent me a message just now saying he went for a walk and ended up at Rhodes Mem.”
“Rhodes Mem? Like, way up at the top there behind the university?”
That’s certainly a long walk.
I grab my bag and keys and jump into my car. Then I have to stop at the end of the street and type ‘Rhodes Memorial’ into my phone’s maps app because even though I kind of know where it is, I’m more likely to end up in Muizenberg than behind the university if I trust my own direction sense.
I get to Rhodes Mem in less than ten minutes. I park my car in the half-full parking lot, jump out, and look around. I was going to come up here during orientation at the beginning of the year, but Charlotte said it was boring and that we should rather hang out at Smuts where the view of the city is just as good and the view of the guys a
I’ve decided Charlotte is wrong. It’s beautiful, this grand monument sitting on the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak with its stairs and its pillars and its bronze horseman looking out over Cape Town. If I weren’t so desperate to find Adam, I’d love to take the time to admire the architecture and the view.
But I am.
desperate. And no matter where I turn or how many times I climb up and down the stairs and around the pillars, I can’t find Adam anywhere. Somebody mentions a restaurant, and I hurriedly make my way behind the memorial to find it. But I scan every table, and still I don’t see him.
I head back outside and sit down on the steps between the horseman and one of the bronze lions. I call Adam again, but his phone simply rings and rings until it switches over to voice mail. I end the call. I don’t want to explain this misunderstanding in a message Adam may or may not listen to. I want to do it person where I can be certain he knows
is the one I want, not the German guy who told me I’d never be good enough for his family or friends.
I stare at the city for a while, running through all the things I wish I hadn’t done since I got here. I wish I hadn’t made the wrong friends and dated the wrong guy and used an abandoned email address—that apparently wasn’t so abandoned after all—as my online diary. Most of all, I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to figure out how important Adam is to me.
When I’ve tortured myself enough with regrets, I walk back to my car and drive home. Adam isn’t there.
I lie on my bed and eventually fall asleep.
It’s dark when I wake up. I lie still for a while, listening for any noise in the house, but all is silent. I lean over and grab my phone from beside my bed. No message from Adam. No call. I take note of the time before dropping the phone onto my bed with a groan. It hasn’t even been twenty-four hours since our electrifying, passion-filled kiss and I’ve already messed things up.
Wait. Saturday night. Adam’s got a shift at
. And he can’t ask Hugo to swap with him, because Hugo’s also working tonight. They were talking about it last night before we put that horrible chick flick on.
I finally know where to find him.
I spend a few minutes in front of the mirror neatening my hair and putting some make-up on—I want to look nice for Adam—before heading out to the road. On second thoughts, perhaps driving is a better idea. Who knows what time I’ll be leaving
, and if I’ll be on my own or not. As I’ve already discovered, walking the streets alone at night isn’t the wisest thing to do.
I wait outside the door at
for at least two full minutes trying to calm my nerves before going inside. I look around at the tables—students with their drinks, a couple sharing a snack basket, a group of ladies giggling over their salads and wine—but there’s no Adam.
He must have swapped shifts with someone else. Maybe that guitar teacher lady. What was her name? Mel, I think. I don’t see her anywhere either, though. Oh, crap, what if he’s
Mel right now? I know she’s older and everything—at least late twenties or early thirties—but maybe Adam likes that. Maybe after Jenna he decided he wanted someone more mature. Someone more mature than Jenna
why he seemed awkward every time I mentioned him asking a girl out, because he’s already having a secret relationship with—
“Oh, hey, Livi.” Startled, I look to my right and find Hugo stuffing a notepad into the front of his apron as he walks over to me.
“Hi. Is Adam here?”
“Uh …” Hugo’s eyes move to the door behind the bar that leads to the kitchen. “He is. But … I’m sorry, Livi. He doesn’t want to talk to you.”
“So he’s hiding back there in the kitchen?”
“Well, not hiding. Just avoiding you.”
Which sounds like hiding to me, but I can’t exactly judge him since I’m the one at fault here. “But … he has to come out eventually, right? I mean, he has tables to serve.”
“And what are you going to do then? Interrupt him while he’s taking someone’s order? Chase him down on his way back to the kitchen?”
“If I have to.”
Hugo hesitates, then says, “Probably not the best idea to make a big scene with the guy you’re trying to apologise to.” He squeezes my arm, then turns and walks to the bar.
If Adam doesn’t want to come out here to listen to my apology, I’ll make sure he can hear it no matter where he is. I huddle in a corner until the band on stage—Lainey’s band—is finished playing their current song. Then I hurry over to Lainey’s side of the stage and stand on tiptoe to whisper my plan to her. She seems doubtful, but when I start begging, she rolls her eyes and waves the lead singer over. He’s clearly annoyed that I’m interrupting, but after I tell him my sad story, he gives in.
A minute later, I’m standing at the front of the stage behind a microphone with half the room staring at me expectantly and Hugo mouthing a horrified,
What the hell are you doing?
from the table he’s supposed to be taking orders from.
I nod to the guitarist, who starts strumming the music for a recent popular song I’ve sung in the shower more times than I can remember. It’s about a guy apologising to a girl for all the things he’s made more important than her after she leaves him and he realises he made a big mistake taking her for granted. It doesn’t exactly fit this situation, but it’s close enough.
I swallow and grip the microphone with my sweaty right hand. My voice isn’t terrible, but I don’t enjoy singing solo in front of other people. I close my eyes and remind myself that this isn’t about me, it’s about Adam. And then I begin singing.
My voice is wobbly and weak, and I almost let go of the mic and run, but I focus my thoughts on Adam. This is for him, and if he accepts my apology, this embarrassing performance will be worth it. I remind myself to breathe the way my choir teacher taught me to breathe, and after another few lines, my voice evens out and grows in strength. I reach the chorus, which is easier to sing, and finally I’m brave enough to open my eyes.
I scan the audience as I continue singing, but Adam isn’t anywhere. I know he can hear me, though. Why isn’t he coming out?
The chorus again.
And still Adam hasn’t shown himself.
I squeeze my eyes shut and belt out the bridge, pouring my heart into every word. Then it’s the final repeat of the chorus, slowing down into the last two lines. I hold the final note as the guitarist’s final strum reverberates through the room.
As the clapping begins, I dare to open my eyes. My gaze combs the room, over the tables, the customers, the waiters—but I see no Adam.
I stumble away from the microphone in shock. I honestly didn’t believe for a second that he’d leave me hanging here. He was supposed to run up onto the stage and take me in his arms and kiss me. Or walk out from behind the bar so I could jump down, run over to him, and apologise over and over again as he forgives me. Or, at the very least, stand behind everyone else where only I can see him, a smile growing slowly on his face as he realises this song is for
But he isn’t here.
WHY ISN’T HE HERE?