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She shrugs. “We could be friends until then.”

“You obviously don’t have any friends either.”

“Not many. Riley doesn’t seem to like them.”

“And? Why does that matter?”

“Because I don’t want to start a fight with her, so I just don’t hang out with them much.”

“Sorry, but Riley sounds like a bitch.”

“Don’t say that about her.” Lillian’s cheeks flush, and for the first time since I met her she’s exhibiting an emotion besides calmness or omniscience.

I play with my cup smoothly, kind of glad to get a rise out of her. “Just saying. I wouldn’t let someone tell me who I can and can’t be friends with.”

“So you’re telling me that Tessa has friends she hangs out with besides you?” She raises her brow, and I look away to think about her question.

She has friends . . . she has Landon. “Yes.”

“You don’t count.”

“No, not me. Landon.”

“Landon is your stepbrother; he doesn’t count.”

Steph is sort of Tessa’s friend but not really, and Zed . . . not a problem anymore. “She has me,” I say.

She smirks. “That’s exactly what I thought.”

“What does it matter? Once we get away from here, and start over, she can make new friends. We can make new friends together.”

“Sure. The problem is that you aren’t going to the same place,” she reminds me.

“She’ll come with me. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but you don’t know her. I do, and I know she can’t live without me.”

Lillian looks up at me with thoughtful eyes. “You know, there’s a big difference between not being able to live without someone and loving them.”

This chick doesn’t even know what she’s talking about—she makes no sense. “I don’t want to talk about her anymore; if we’re going to be friends, I need to know about you and Regan.”

“Riley,” she says sharply.

I chuckle lightly. “Annoying, isn’t it?”

Lillian glowers playfully at me, but then tells me all about how she met her girlfriend. They were partnered up together for Lillian’s freshman orientation. Riley had been rude at first but later made a move on her, surprising both of them. Apparently this Riley has a jealous streak and a temper. Sounds familiar.

“Most of our fights stem from her jealousy. She’s always afraid that I’ll stray from her. I don’t know why, because she’s the one always getting attention from everyone, male and female, and she’s dated both.” She sighs. “So it’s sort of like everyone’s fair game.”

“You haven’t?”

“No, I’ve never dated a guy.” She crinkles her nose. “Well, once in eighth grade, because I felt like I had to. My friends were hassling me for never having a boyfriend.”

“Why didn’t you just tell them?” I ask her.

“It’s not that simple.”

“It should be.”

She smiles. “Yes, it should be. But it’s not. Anyway, I’ve never dated anyone except Riley and one other girl.” Then her smile disappears. “Riley’s dated a lot.”

THE REST OF MY MORNING and the entire afternoon is spent this way, listening to this girl’s problems. I don’t mind as much as I thought, though. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one with these types of issues. Lillian reminds me a lot of Tessa and Landon. If they were morphed into one person, it would certainly be Lillian. I hate to admit it, but I don’t mind her company too much. She’s an outsider, like me, but she doesn’t judge me, because she barely knows me. Strangers come and go, in and out of the coffee shop, and each time a blonde steps in, I can’t help but look up, hoping it will be my blond stranger.

A funny little tune starts to play. “That would be my dad calling . . .” Lillian says and looks down at her phone. “Shit, it’s almost five,” she says, panicked. “We need to go. Well, I need to go. I still don’t have anything to wear tonight.”

“For what?” I ask her when she stands up.

“Dinner. You knew we’re going to dinner with your parents, didn’t you?”

“Karen isn’t my . . .” I begin but decide to let it go. She knows.

I get up and follow her down the block to a small clothing store filled with colorful dresses and gaudy jewelry. It smells like mothballs and salt water.

“There’s nothing to choose from,” she groans, holding up a bright pink frilly dress.

“That’s hideous,” I tell her, and she nods, hanging it back up.

I can’t help but think of what Tessa is doing right now. Is she wondering where I am? I’m sure she assumes that I’m with Lillian, which is true, but she doesn’t have anything to worry about. She knows this.

Wait . . . no, she doesn’t. I haven’t told her about Lillian’s girlfriend.

“Tessa doesn’t know you’re gay,” I blurt as she shows me a black beaded dress.

She looks at me smoothly and just sweeps her hand across the dress again, kind of like she did with the brandy bottle last night.

“I’m not giving you fashion advice here, so stop trying,” I groan.

She rolls her eyes. “So why didn’t you tell her?”

I poke at this feather necklace thing. “I don’t know, I didn’t think about it.”

“Well, I’m oh-so-flattered that my orientation was so unnnotable to you,” she says with feigned gratitude and a spread hand at her neck. “But you really should tell her.” She smiles. “No wonder she almost backhanded you.”

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