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The Unexpected Way of Falling in Love, Page 5

Jessica Sorensen

  “That’s actually kind of sweet.”

  “Yeah, I was kind of a sweet kid.” I roll onto my side and prop up onto my elbow. “My mom was also hurting back then, and I couldn’t figure out why. I think I secretly hoped that, if I could read her mind, I could fix her.”

  “Why was she hurting?” he wonders.

  “I’m not sure,” I lie.

  The truth is, she was hurting because she was worried we were going to be evicted and that she was going to somehow have to get a third job. Back then, she was working two jobs already and they both paid shit. Of course, she didn’t tell me any of this, which is why she’s such a good mom—always trying to protect me from her financial problems. But late one night, when she thought I was in bed, I overheard her talking to my aunt Bethany about it. I remember she was crying and all I wanted to do was figure out why. So, I tried to read her mind. All I ended up getting was a headache. But eventually she confessed to my aunt why she was so upset. That was the day I realize just how truly poor we were. My aunt had suggested my mom ask my dad for help, but my mom shut down that conversation quickly. It left me wondering who my dad was and what sort of life he was living. Especially when my mom said, “I’d rather be poor for the rest of my life then ask that man for his corrupt money.”

  I don’t know whether she meant corrupt in the literal sense, or if she just didn’t like my dad. But I could never get answers since she rarely talks to me about him, which frustrates me sometimes. I keep the frustration to myself, though, not wanting to upset her.

  Eventually those days of her hurting and worrying faded as our life changed. We’re not as poor now as we used to be. In fact, a couple years later, my aunt and mom started a housekeeping business, which they currently run today. My mom still does a lot of the grunt work, and sometimes I help to make some extra cash on weekends that I’ve been saving up for college, even though my mom insists she’ll take care of the tuition. I know she can’t afford it, though, and more than likely she’s going to try to take out a loan. But I’m not going to let her. College is my thing. I should pay for it.

  “Have you ever tried to read anyone else’s mind?” Carter asks, the sound of music filling up the background.

  I wonder where he is.

  If I were braver, I’d ask.

  “Maybe a couple of times,” I admit, then bite down on my tongue.

  This is probably going to come back to bite me in the ass. I can hear the rumors already. Did you know that Ensley thinks she’s a mind reader? She should seriously be locked up in a padded room.

  I think it might be time to end this call before I give him more information to use against me.

  I sit up on the bed and lower my feet to the floor. “Hey, Carter, I have to go. My mom needs some help with something.”

  “Can you give me one more minute?” he asks quickly. “I need to ask you something. Besides, you have one minute left before your time’s up, and so far, you haven’t changed my mind about your allegedly bad talking skills.”

  I squeeze my eyes shut, conflicted. On one hand, I feel like I’ve already told him way too much personal stuff about me. But on the other hand, I want to find out why he called.

  If Elodie were here, she’d be whispering in my ear to keep him on the line for as long as possible. That it’s the first step to make him fall in love with me.

  Eye roll. That’s never going to happen.

  Being me, I say, “Sure. I think I can spare one more minute.”

  “Good.” Strangely, he sounds relieved, which makes me question again what he’s up to. “So, the reason I called is going to sound a bit weird, but I need you to hear me out before you say yes or no.”

  “Okay.” Hesitancy rings in my voice.

  “You don’t need to be nervous,” he tries to reassure me. But his reassurance only fuels the nervous bubble inflating in the pit of my stomach. “It’s about doing something this Saturday night.”

  “Doing what, exactly?” I ask cautiously.

  “It’s a surprise. Well, sort of.”

  Sounds a bit suspicious if you ask me. “Does it involve a vat of pig’s blood?”

  Honestly, I don’t think he’s going to get the reference, so when he says, “No, Ens, I’m not planning on Carrie-ing you,” I’m shocked. Maybe just as shocked that he called me Ens. No one calls me that except for my closest friends, so basically Elodie and Gaige and sometimes my mom does, unless she’s mad at me, then I get full named.

  “Sorry,” I feel the need to apologize. “I had to be sure.”

  “That I wasn’t going to dump a vat of pig’s blood on your head?” He seems offended, which throws me for a turn.

  A big, sharp, squirrely, unfamiliar turn.

  I don’t know why he seems so upset that I’d think that. Does he not remember the last decade of him constantly teasing me?

  “Sorry,” I say again. “This is all just a little weird.”

  “What is?” Puzzlement laces his tone. I can’t tell if he’s faking it or not.

  The girl inside me who crushes on Carter wants to believe he’s being genuine, but the girl who’s had to endure his mocking and teasing for almost ten years is skeptical.

  “You, me, talking on the phone …” I trace a circular pattern on my comforter. “This isn’t a normal thing.”

  “Yeah, I know. But there’s a first time for everything, right?”


  A pause.

  “So, will you?” he asks. “Do something with me on Saturday?”

  Wariness floods my mind. “Are you sure you can’t tell me what we’d be doing?”

  “If I did, then it wouldn’t be a surprise. Besides, before I can take you to the place, you have to pass a test so I know you’re trustworthy enough to keep where I take you a secret.”

  I chew on my bottom lip, feeling guilty over his trustworthy remark. I used to be a trustworthy person, but after today, I’m not sure I am.

  “How do I prove that to you? Doesn’t learning to trust someone take time?”

  “That all depends on the person.”

  “So, you think I’m the sort of person you can learn to trust within an hour?”

  “Maybe I pretty much trust you already.”

  “You don’t even know me,” I say quietly. “For all you know, I could be the biggest liar and manipulator ever.”

  “Clearly, you haven’t spent much time around my friends,” he says with a hint of disdain.

  “No, I haven’t.” Bitterness creeps into my tone.

  He must sense the direction of our conversation, because he changes the subject. “I’d need to pick you up at about five, and we’ll probably be out until at least midnight. Is that going to be a problem? I’m not sure if you have a curfew or not.”

  “Usually, I don’t.” But usually, I’m just hanging out with Elodie and sometimes with Gaige. And even though I’m an adult now, I’m not sure how my mom’s going to react when I tell her I’m going out with Carter. I crinkle my nose as I picture telling her. Yeah, she’s going to shit a brick. “I’ll have to talk to my mom and let you know. And I don’t get off work until about four, so would it be possible for you to pick me up at five thirty instead?” I sound so formal.

  I sound like a moron.

  I sound like a girl who’s never gone out on a date.

  So, yeah, I basically sound like myself.

  God, this is such a bad idea. Not only am I agreeing to go out on a date with Carter, who probably has ulterior motives, but I’m agreeing to go out with Carter so I can try to make him fall in love with me and then break his heart.

  Guilt consumes my chest and I almost tell him I can’t go. Then my phone buzzes with an incoming message, distracting me.

  “Yeah, that works,” Carter replies. “It’ll give me a half an hour less to figure out if I can trust you, but I’m pretty sure it’s only going to take a few minutes.”

  His faith in me makes me feel even more guilty.

  “Hey, can you
hold on a second?” he says. “I got another call coming in.”


  While he puts me on hold, I open the message I received.

  Elodie: Did Carter just ask you out again?

  Me: Yeah … How did you know that?

  Elodie: Because I’m spying on him right now. You’re going to say yes, right?

  Me: I don’t know if I should.

  Elodie: You have to. This is the perfect chance to put our plan in motion!

  Me: I already agreed to go to the party next Friday, which FYI, is a disaster in the making.

  Elodie: No way! It’s the perfect opportunity for Carter to start falling head over heels in love with you.

  I love Elodie to death, but the girl is acting batshit crazy right now.

  Me: You do realize that all of his friends are going to be at this party and they’re probably going to make fun of Carter for being there with me. Honestly, I’m betting he’s playing us. Or, well, me anyway.

  Elodie: I’m positive he’s not.

  Me: How can you be so sure?

  Elodie: Because I’m a mind reader. Or have you forgotten?

  Me: Forgotten how you failed at your attempts at mind reading? No, I remember that pretty clearly.

  Elodie: I just pretended to fail so you wouldn’t feel bad that you sucked.

  Me: Aw, you’re such a great friend.

  Elodie: About time you realized that.

  I shake my head, unable to stop a smile from spreading across my face.

  “Hey, are you still there?” Carter’s voice floats through the receiver.

  “Yep,” I answer loudly as I type a quick bye to Elodie.

  Before I put the phone to my ear, she sends one last text.

  Elodie: Agree to go out with him on Saturday. Please, please, pretty please. I’ll owe you big time.

  “Sorry about that,” Carter says, sounding a bit breathless.

  What on earth is he doing that he’s out of breath?

  His fuck-chest pops into my mind for some weird reason, and I frown. Okay, maybe I don’t want to know why he sounds like he just ran a marathon.

  “So, we’re on for Saturday, right?” he asks after he’s calmed down his might-of-just-had-sex breathing.

  “Um …” My heart pounds in my chest. Freakin’ giggle berries, what the heck should I do? Part of me wants to say yes for Elodie, and yeah, I’ll admit, a little bit for myself. But the other part of me worries I’m setting myself up for disaster.

  “Is that ‘um’ a yes or a no?” he asks teasingly, a hint of worry residing in his voice.

  The worry makes me worry, yet I somehow find my lips sputtering, “Yes … It’s a yes.”

  Well, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. If this all backfires in my face, I’ll have no one to blame but myself.

  “Awesome,” he says. “I’ll pick you up at five thirty, then.”

  “Do you want me to text you my address?” The instant I utter the words, I realize he’s actually going to have to come to my place. While I’m not ashamed of where I live, I can see Carter using it against me, especially if he tells his friends.

  “I already have the address,” he says.

  What? “How?”

  “I have my ways.”

  The nervous bubble in my stomach triples in size. “Okay, I’ll see you on Saturday, then.”

  “Can’t wait. I promise you’re going to have a lot of fun. At least, I hope so.” He gives a short pause. “And Ens, you’re not as bad as you think.”

  Now I’m even more lost. “About what?”

  “With the whole talking thing. This is actually one of the best conversations I’ve had in a long time.”

  “If that’s true, then I feel sorry for you.”

  “Well, then throw me a pity party because it’s completely true.”

  “I’m getting my confetti and kazoo out right now.”

  He chuckles. “Yeah, definitely the most entertaining conversation I’ve had in a long time.”

  I wonder if he’s telling the truth. No, what I’m really wondering is if any of this conversation is true.

  “See you tomorrow,” he says through a chuckle.

  “Yeah, sure,” I mutter stupidly.

  “Bye, Ens.” He sounds amused by me again. And again, I have no clue why.

  “Bye.” I hang up and flop back on the bed.

  I lie there for a moment before reality crashes into me and punches me in the chest, like a big, mean ninja.

  My eyes widen. “Holy shit, I have to go on a date with Carter. This is going to be a disaster.”

  And the sad part is that I created the mess all on my own.



  Almost the second I get off the phone with Carter, Elodie calls me.

  “You know, it’s pretty creepy that you were spying on your brother while he was talking to me on the phone,” I answer, climbing back onto my bed. “Did he know you were?”

  “Of course not,” she says like duh. “I know how to be sneaky when I need to be.”

  “Why were you being sneaky at all?”

  “Well, at first I was trying to get some dirt on him, but then I realized he was talking to you and I wanted to get a vibe on the situation.”

  “You mean, see if he’s up to something?”

  “I thought that might be a possibility, because it totally seems like something he’d do. But I don’t think he’s up to something.”

  “Yeah, because it’s just a freakish coincidence that he asks me out twice in a row the day you come up with your plan.” I sigh heavily. “I’m wondering if maybe he found out what we are up to and now he’s trying to play me.”

  “There’s no way he could’ve found out about my brilliant plan,” she insists. “Besides, the first time he asked you out wasn’t a joke.”

  “How do you know that for sure?”

  “Because I saw the look on his face. He was so shocked you agreed. He wasn’t planning on you saying yes.”

  “I highly doubt that. Carter always expects girls to say yes to him, because they always do.” I twist a strand of hair around my finger. “He probably looked shocked because I said yes and then ran off like a crazy lunatic.”

  “That might have been part of it, but he was definitely shocked from the start.” She pauses. “And I have a theory about why.”

  “El, remember what we talked about,” I remind her. “You’re not allowed to come up with theories unless we’re in bio. Remember the disaster of junior prom?”

  “Hey! That was last year, and how was I supposed to know that Lana didn’t really want to go with Gaige? She totally sent mixed signals.”

  “Mixed signals aside, you promised you wouldn’t come up with any more love theories unless you were one hundred percent sure that all parties involved were on board. Remember how crushed Gaige was when he asked Lana out and she said no? Because I sure as hell do. I practically had to bribe him to come back to school. He was even thinking about dropping out.”

  “He never would’ve actually dropped out,” she says. “He was just being a drama queen, like he always is. Seriously, he’s the moodiest person I know.”

  Hmm … She’s basically the pot calling the kettle black, but I’m not about to say that aloud. “Okay.”

  “Hey! I’m not moody.”

  “I never said you were.”

  “But you were thinking it.”

  Okay, she has me there. “We’re all moody in our own way.”

  “You’re not,” she gripes. “You’re, like, the least moody person I know. Even when Carter and his friends are assholes to you.”

  “Maybe I just hold it all in.”

  “Do you?” she wonders worriedly.

  I swallow hard, and then lie, not wanting to open up that door—God knows what will spill out. “Nah, not really.”

  “I think you’re lying, but that’s okay. I’ll let you keep your lie for now.” A beat of silence ticks by, and then chatter fills the ba
ckground. “Look, I gotta go. But how about I come over Saturday morning so I can help you pick out an outfit?”

  I push up from the bed. “I have to work from noon till four, and then Carter is picking me up at five thirty.”

  “Then I’ll come over in the morning.”

  I want to tell her that she doesn’t need to, but once Elodie makes up her mind about something, she’s really hard to argue with. So, I agree to let her come over and dress me up like I’m some sort of doll. But not before a few stipulations.

  No pink.

  No heels.

  3. Nothing that’s completely out there.

  I may be going out on a fake date with Carter, but I’m not going to pretend to be someone else. If this plan is going to work, he’s going to have to fall for me, which probably means the plan won’t work at all.

  That is, if the plan is even a plan anymore.

  I have an unsettling feeling that Carter already knows what we’re up to and is planning something against me.



  I’m not who everyone thinks I am. Am I a jerk? Yeah, they got that part right. I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of and what makes it worse is I know what I’ve done is wrong. But I’m not only a jerk. I’m also hiding something. Something I’m not proud of, but at the same time, I want it.

  After I get off the phone with Ensley, I wander out to the balcony and shut the doors to make sure no one can hear the call I’m about to make. If anyone finds out what I’m up to, I could lose everything. And I mean that in the literal sense. But if I can pull it off, I might finally be free for the first time in my life, finally get what I want.

  I know what you’re thinking at this point. How can he possibly not have everything he wants? He’s been given everything since the day he was born.

  It’s the truth, too. I’m not going to try to deny my entitlement. I know I’ve had an easy life, if you’re basing it solely on materialism. But my life isn’t all parties, glitz and glamor, and all that shit. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve had to put up with stuff many people haven’t. I’ve never been able to make my own choices, and I often feel like a caged animal.