The Spark Theory

By Michelle Chichester All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Other

Chapter Fifteen

“What you need,” Michelle said around a bite of celery, “is some perspective. Dating perspective.”

“Dating perspective?” I asked, a note of skepticism in my voice.

“Yes,” she nodded. “You need some perspective. The only long-term relationship you’ve had since college was Mike. And now, you’re hanging out with Clark, clearly going on what should be considered dates, but you aren’t actually dating because of the whole girlfriend situation.”

Michelle and I were sitting in the bar, waiting for Zach to meet us for dinner. Michelle took a sip of her drink before continuing.

“The way I see it, you’re getting yourself all worked up about this guy who is totally unavailable. I get it. He’s hot. And rich. A good combination. And then Mike,” she said, shaking her head, “calling you up out of the blue wanting to get back together. Two choices, but they’re not your only options. There’s a whole city of men out there. You just need to see what else is out there.”

“Easier said than done. It’s not easy to meet people, you know.”

“Why not? You did it with Mike. And Clark. What’s to say that another, cuter, available version of Clark isn’t out there?”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right.”

“I know I’m right. Zach agrees with me.”

“You talked to Zach about it?”

“I talk to Zach about everything. He’s a good listener.”

“Just the same, I’m not exactly sure that I want you sharing my dating life with your boyfriend.”

“Whatever.” She rolled her eyes. “Look, I like Clark. I really do. And who knows, maybe something will work out there. But, all I’m saying is that you shouldn’t hold your breath. In the meantime, you’ll be missing out.”

“Well, there’s always Mike.”

“Oh my God, please tell me you’re not considering taking him back.”

“I’ve thought about it. We were together over a year, after all. We had fun.”

“I will seriously kill you if you do that.”

“He told me he loved me. He came looking for me, for God’s sake.”

“So what? He cheated on you. What’s to say he won’t do it again?”

“I know. You’re right again. I’d probably always be wondering about it. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do. I mean, should I meet him? Go out a few times to see how it goes?”

“Zach thinks you should tell him to get a life. Speaking of Zach, I see him coming.”

I looked across the bar to see Zach snaking his way through the crowd and over to us. With him was another guy.

“Okay, be cool, now. I forgot to tell you he was bringing a friend.”

“A friend? Oh, no. This isn’t a set up, is it?”

Michelle smiled at me innocently. “No, don’t be ridiculous. It’s just one of Zach’s old friends from college in town for the weekend. But, he is single, so it wouldn’t hurt you to be nice.”

Before I could say anything, Zach and his friend were upon us. Zach introduced us to his friend, Russ, who was visiting from Boston for the weekend. About an inch shorter than me, with plain brown hair that looked like it hadn’t been cut in weeks, on appearance alone he looked so totally unlike anyone I would ever go for that I hoped Michelle was serious about this not being a blind date.

We ordered some more drinks, and Michelle started asking Russ questions about himself: his job, what he liked to do for fun, if he had a girlfriend. She looked pointedly at me when he answered the last question in the negative, and I felt my face go red as I was sure her look did not go unnoticed by the other two.

After a while, the hostess seated us and gave us menus.

“Who’s up for some wine?” Russ asked, scanning the wine list. “Kate? What sounds good?”

“Whatever you guys want, I guess. Actually, on second thought, I might be in the mood for white wine tonight.”

“Hmm.” He looked disappointed at my answer and continued to scan the list. “Well, actually there a Merlot here that I had before that is really good. I would really recommend it. What do you guys think?” he asked, looking at Zach and Michelle.

“Whatever you want,” Michelle assured him.

“Let me take a look at that,” Zach said, grabbing the list from him. “Okay, Kate, there’s a California Chardonnay that’s the house white. How about a glass of that for you and the rest of us will have the Merlot? Does that sound good?”

“Yes, thanks,” I said, pleased at his thoughtfulness.

Zach looked at the hostess. “A glass of the house Chardonnay and a bottle of the Merlot for the rest of us.”

After the hostess left to get our drink orders, we proceeded to scan the menu for what looked good.

“What are you going to get, honey?” Michelle asked Zach.

“Steak, I think,” he replied. “What about you?”

“I was thinking about the mushroom risotto.”

“Oh, come on, Michelle,” Russ exclaimed. “You can’t come to a steak house and not have steak!”

Michelle looked up, surprised at his tone. “Well, I don’t really eat a lot of red meat,” she explained.

“Oh. Well, okay.” He scanned the menu once again. “What about you, Kate? What are you in the mood for?”

“Will you bite my head off if I order the chicken?”

Zach chuckled at the look on his friend’s face. Michelle half-smiled as I looked at her, eyebrows raised in amusement. After we ordered, Russ launched into a twenty-minute story about his job, barely letting anyone else get a word in edgewise. It turned out that he was a wholesaler for a mutual fund company. He’d come to New York for a few days because his company was thinking about transferring him here.

“Oh, how nice,” Michelle said. “Now, you might be close by.” She turned to me. “Isn’t that nice, Kate?”

“Yeah, great,” I mumbled, taking a sip of my drink. I saw Zach out of the corner of my eye, giving me a sympathetic smile. He, too, could see what Michelle was trying to do.

The rest of the meal continued in much of the same fashion. I must have offended Russ with my chicken joke because it seemed like he went out of his way not to talk to me for the rest of evening, only looking at me if I asked him a direct question. The evening dragged. I somehow managed to make it through the main course without completely wanting to kill myself, but the thought of accidently on purpose poking myself in the eye with my fork so I had an excuse to leave did cross my mind a couple of times. Michelle kept up the playful banter, clearly trying to get me more involved in the conversation. Finally, when I could stand it no longer, I excused myself to go to the bathroom and dragged Michelle along with me.

“What are you doing?” I asked her once we got there.

“What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean. You said this wasn’t a set up.”

“It wasn’t. I didn’t plan this. But, hey, you heard him. He’s single, and he might be moving to New York. You should give him a chance.”

“The last thing that I want to do is give this guy a chance. He is so completely not the type of guy I’d ever give a chance to. I’d rather eat live ants than give this guy a chance.”

“God, you are so choosy!”

“And, you are so pushy. Please stop trying to play matchmaker, okay? You don’t have to throw the two of us together just because we both happen to be single.”

“Alright. I’ll drop it,” she said, looking in the mirror and touching up her lip gloss.

“Thanks.”

“He is a little self-centered,” she admitted.

“You think?” I laughed. “And the guy can’t take a joke, either. Let’s just have a normal dinner with normal conversation and leave it at that. No making it into something it isn’t.”

She agreed and we left the bathroom to head back to the table. There, we saw the guys looking over the bill.

“We hope you guys don’t mind, but we thought we’d skip dessert,” Zach said. “We were thinking about going someplace else for another drink. How about it?”

“Okay,” Michelle agreed.

“What about you, Kate?” he asked.

I looked at my watch, searching for an excuse. “Oh! Is that the time? I forgot to feed the cat.”

“Cat?” Michelle asked, confused. “You don’t have a . . . ”

“Neighbor’s cat. I said I’d watch their cat while they were on vacation, and I completely forgot to check in on it today.” I shrugged. “I’m really sorry, but I think I’ll have to pass.”

Michelle looked like she wanted to say something, but Zach grabbed her hand before she could speak. “Yes, well, you’re right. The cat’s probably going a little stir crazy by now. We shouldn’t keep you waiting,” Zach agreed.

“Right.” I turned to Russ and held out a hand. “Russ, it was very nice meeting you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit. I’m sorry I couldn’t stay longer, but I’m sure you guys will have fun.”

He looked a little relieved as he shook my hand goodbye. “It was nice meeting you, Kate.”

I turned back to Michelle. “I’ll see you guys next weekend at Mom and Dad’s?”

Michelle gave me a look that showed she wasn’t pleased. “Yes. I’m not sure when we’ll get there, though. Sometime on Friday, but we haven’t made our exact plans, yet.”

“Great, I’ll see you then.”

I gave a last wave and turned to leave, practically running to get out of the restaurant before they could follow me. It wasn’t that late, but I decided to grab a cab uptown so that I didn’t have to deal with the subway. I had the cab let me off on the corner and headed for home. On the way there, another cab pulled up along the street, and someone got out, crossing the sidewalk in front of me.

“Clark!”

He looked over. “Oh, hey, Kate. Just getting home?”

“Yeah. I met Michelle and her boyfriend for dinner. How was dinner with your parents? Better than my evening, I hope.”

“Why? What happened?”

“Oh, nothing. One of Zach’s friends showed up, and Michelle proceeded to play matchmaker the whole night. I don’t know which one of us was more uncomfortable.”

“Sounds painful,” he laughed.

“Mildly. I made the excuse of having to feed the neighbor’s cat to get out of going for drinks afterwards.”

“Does your neighbor have a cat?”

“Who knows? I don’t really know him that well. I think so,” I finally said, remembering the time I’d run into my neighbor in the hallway when he was carrying a bag of cat litter.

He laughed. “But, still that’s harsh, though. Glad that’s never happened to me.”

“Believe me, if it was you being thrown together with someone, I’m sure the girl in question wouldn’t be in such a hurry to bail. You’re much easier to get along with.”

He smiled. “We had a pretty good day today, didn’t we?”

“Yeah, that was fun. How was Enrico? He wasn’t too bummed about having to share his day with me, was he?”

“No, actually, I think he kind of liked it. Gave him a change from having to hang out with only me for once.”

“Yeah, he’s great.”

“I was talking about you with my parents tonight,” he said, changing the subject.

“You were?”

“Yeah. My dad and I got to talking about work, and I told them about you being my neighbor and working on the ad campaign for the charity. They can’t wait to see it.”

“Oh. Well, I hope it doesn’t disappoint.”

He gestured a few buildings down. “Can I walk you home?”

I rolled my eyes. “All of two buildings? Thanks.”

“No problem,” he smiled, eyeing me thoughtfully. After a second, he spoke again. “Why do you think we get along so well?”

His question surprised me. I had just been thinking the same thing. “I don’t know,” I shrugged, and I wondered what he was getting at. “I guess maybe because we don’t have to try so hard? I mean, since we’re just friends and all, we don’t have to work so hard to try and impress the other person.”

“Hmm, maybe.” We’d reached my steps.

“Why do you think?” I asked, eager to hear his answer.

“I don’t know. You’re very easy to talk to. I like that about you.”

“Thanks,” I smiled.

He grinned back. “Well, it’s late. I shouldn’t keep you. We’re on for the drive out to Long Island on Friday, right?”

“Yep.”

“If I don’t see you, I’ll call you and we can firm up the details, okay?”

“Great.”

“Okay.” He started to leave, backing away. “Sleep tight. No nightmares about your sister trying to hook you up on scary dates.”

“No,” I shook my head, grinning. “No nightmares.”

“See you around.”

“Yeah. See you.” I climbed the steps and watched as he made his way back over toward his building. He waved to me as he climbed the steps and let himself into the front door. I smiled to myself, thinking about the day -- definitely the best parts of the day were the ones with Clark -- and I could feel myself heading there again. The place where I let myself start to get hopeful again about him. Where he actually felt the spark between us that I’d been feeling for a while. Michelle had said I needed perspective. But, God, this guy was really getting under my skin and it was getting harder and harder to shake it off.


Friday couldn’t come soon enough. I kept busy during the week by working late hours, going into Smith’s office more than I really had to. By the end of the week, I was drained and ready for a few days of rest.

I took Friday off of work -- one of the perks of being a consultant. The alarm went off early, and I jumped out of bed. I had a ton of energy -- much more than when I knew I had to go into the office. After a run and a quick shower, I packed some things for my weekend. Clark was picking me up at ten, so when I was done packing I decided to kill some time by doing a little cleaning. There was nothing like coming home to a clean apartment after a little time away.

After scrubbing the toilet and bathtub, and changing the sheets on my bed, there wasn’t much more to do. I hadn’t been home enough that week to really create much of a mess. The clock read nine o’clock, and I still had an hour of waiting. I primped a little in the mirror, trying to decide if I wanted to change my shirt, before resuming my cleaning. Forty-five minutes later, I’d resigned myself to alphabetizing my CD collection, wondering why I’d never done this before, a stack of CDs all around, when the sound of my door buzzer jarred me from concentrating on whether to put my Christmas CDs in their own section or mixed in according to artist. I looked at the pile of CDs all around -- so much for coming home to a clean apartment -- before I answered Clark’s buzz that I’d be right down.

I grabbed my purse and bag, locked the door, and took the stairs down at a run. Clark was standing by his car, which he had pulled up outside my building. He waved to me when I appeared at the door.

“Hey!” he called.

“Hey!” I answered, shutting the building door behind me and hurrying down the steps.

“I’ll take that,” he said, reaching for my bag as I approached the car.

“Thanks.”

“No problem.” He took the bag from me and walked over to the trunk. “So,” he asked, as he opened the trunk and put the bag inside, “are you looking forward to getting away?”

“Yeah, I could use a few days off,” I replied.

“I hear ya,” he said, slamming the trunk shut, and gesturing to me to get in.

I climbed in the car and shut my door. I took a quick look around before Clark got in. I’d never seen a part of his world before, not his apartment, his car, nothing, so I was interested. The one thing I noticed in the few seconds before he got in the car was that it was clean. And, not only neat, like with no empty wrappers or old coffee cups. It was clean, like immaculate. It even smelled clean, almost like that new car smell, but with a touch of lemon. I noticed that my stomach was doing these nervous little cartwheels and my palms were sweating.

The driver’s side door opened and Clark got in. “Ready?” he smiled, looking over at me.

“Yep.”

We grabbed our seatbelts and put them on, and Clark started up the car. He pulled away from the curb and maneuvered his way into the traffic heading south, where we’d get onto the Triborough Bridge.

In an effort to start conversation, I said, “Nice car.”

He gave a short laugh. “Thanks. Actually, you should have seen it this morning. It was pretty much a disaster area. I decided I had to get it cleaned rather than subjecting you to the torture of riding in it the way it was. The traffic will be bad enough as it is.”

“Oh, so that’s why it looks so nice. I was wondering if you were sort of a clean freak.”

He smiled, his arm lazily slung over the steering wheel as we made our way downtown. “Not quite, but watch your feet, okay?” he said, gesturing with his head at my shoes. He laughed when I jumped. “Kidding.”

“Right,” I said, heart beating in my chest. “I knew that.”

“So,” he asked after a few more minutes, “how was your week?” Despite my attempts to linger around the neighborhood coffee shop or take longer runs in the morning, I’d been unsuccessful at seeing Clark at all since last weekend. Our only communication had been a few phone calls where we planned our meeting this morning.

“Busy,” I sighed, thinking back to the hours I’d put in. “I worked some long hours this week, since I knew the long weekend was coming up. How about you?”

“Oh, the usual,” He shrugged. “Just work. Actually,” he smiled over at me, “I worked with our marketing department this week on how we are going use this campaign you’re coming up with.”

“Oh yeah?” I was hoping my voice sounded more confident than I felt.

“Yeah, can’t wait to see it when it’s done.”

I swallowed, my heart in my throat. “Well,” I said a little more forcefully, “It’ll be good, you’ll see.”

He smiled at me. “Cool. Other than work, I hung out with friends a couple of nights. It was pretty low key.”

Trying not to sound too interested, I said, “I didn’t see you around the neighborhood this week. I thought I might see you getting coffee or something.”

“Huh, I thought I’d see you, too,” he smiled at me briefly before turning back to the road. “Guess our paths were just not destined to cross this week.”

“Guess not.” I tried to sound more casual than I felt. “Done much running lately?”

“Some. I actually hit the gym a few times this week with some buddies. And, Penelope turned me on to yoga.”

“Yoga?” I sputtered. “I cannot picture you doing yoga.” I shook my head in disbelief.

“What? Haven’t you ever seen a grown man do yoga before?”
“Yeah, but you just don’t seem the type.”

“There you go again, judging a book by its cover. You’d be surprised. It is pretty calming, and I get a great workout.”

I laughed.

“What?” he asked. “It’s true. I took a yoga class early this morning, actually. Felt it would calm me down for this drive home.”

“Did it?”

“Om,” he hummed. “Don’t I seem calm and collected to you?” he smiled.

I eyed him critically. “Yes, actually, you do. But, I guess I’ve never seen you otherwise.”

“Oh, I have my moments.”

The traffic wasn’t bad getting out of the city, and we made our way over the Triborough Bridge in good time. The plan was that I would call my parents when I was about twenty minutes away. Clark would drop me at my family’s favorite restaurant, which was closer to the main roads. I suspected the ulterior motive when my dad suggested it. I’m sure he was craving some steak fries.

Clark and I chatted easily about work, shows we’d seen on television, books we’d read. He asked about Emile and Charlotte, who I’d just heard from, and I made small talk by asking about Penelope and his other friends. I deliberately steered clear of asking about his girlfriend, and Clark didn’t bring her up, either. Before I knew it, we were at my exit. Clark found the restaurant easily from my directions, and he pulled into a spot near the front before shutting off the engine.

“I remember this place,” he said. “We used to come here as a kid.”

“You came here?” I asked, wondering why someone whose family probably had a chef who cooked all their meals would come to the local hamburger joint.

“Yeah, I remember they had the best hamburgers. And, their steak fries were out of this world.”

I laughed. “You’ve gotta meet my dad,” I said, rolling my eyes. “He harbors a secret obsession for those fries. I suspect the ulterior motive for meeting me here wasn’t because it was closer to the parkway. It’s really because of the fries.” I looked out of the window to see my parents walking up to the front door of the restaurant. “Oh, that’s them,” I said. I turned to Clark. “Thanks so much for driving me. I really appreciate it. Um, if I could just get my bag . . .”

“What, don’t I get to meet your parents?”

“Oh, of course,” I said, flustered. “I just didn’t want to keep you.”

“No, let’s go,” he said, getting out of the car.

I got out, too, wondering how my college professor dad and hippie mom would compare to Clark’s parents. I caught my parent’s eyes and waved as we approached the front door of the restaurant where they were waiting. My mom was holding onto my dad’s arm, and she looked trim and lovely in a flowing summer dress. My dad looked a little tired around the eyes, but he was as handsome as ever. I decided I had nothing to worry about. My parents were my parents, and I would always be proud of them the way they were. I pushed that little nagging worry about what Clark would think out of my head. After all, what did it really matter?

Clark interrupted my reverie. “I see where you get your looks.”

I nodded my head. “Yeah, my mom’s really pretty.”

“Pretty? She’s a knockout!”
I laughed, embarrassed. I never thought of my mom that way before. Of course, my face turned red and before I could compose myself, we had reached my parents.

“Hi, sweetheart,” my mom said, giving me a hug.

“Um. . . ”

“Hi, I’m Clark,” Clark said, holding his hand out to my dad.

“Nice to meet you, Clark,” my dad said, shaking his hand.

“Likewise,” Clark replied.

“Oh, hello, Clark,” my mom said, grabbing his hand. “We sure appreciate you giving Kate a ride out today. I’m sure the trains would have been crazy.”

“It’s my pleasure,” he said. “Actually, Kate did me a favor by agreeing to ride with me. It would have been a long, boring ride otherwise.”

“How are you, sweetheart?” my dad asked, giving me a squeeze.

“Fine.” I was glad to see that I’d recovered enough to be able to answer.

“Are you joining us for lunch, Clark?” my mom asked.

Before I could open my mouth to say, of course he doesn’t want to join us, Mom, I heard Clark say “Wouldn’t miss it.” My mouth popped open in disbelief, and I hoped I shut it before anyone saw.

“Shall we?” My dad opened the door and ushered my mom inside. Clark followed and held the door open for me.

“Coming?” he smiled. “Or, do I get to eat your fries?”

“I’m coming,” I said. “You know, you really don’t have to do this.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?”

“No, it’s just, well, I don’t know what you have planned, and I’m not trying to take up any more of your time, and . . .”

“Kate,” he said. “You worry too much. If I didn’t want to be here, I wouldn’t be, okay? Relax.”

“Yep,” I said, secretly relieved. I’d had a good time on the drive out and hadn’t wanted it to end. Now, it looked like I got to spend a little more time with Clark, even if it was at lunch with my parents.

We went inside and met up with my parents just as we were about to be seated. The hostess led us to a table in the corner and handed out our menus all around.

“Okay,” my dad said, opening his menu. “Let’s see what looks good.”

I smiled to myself as I looked through my own menu. My dad did the same thing every time. Actually, I thought, all that talk before of fries made me hungry, and I eyed the burger section of the menu thoughtfully, instead of picking out a salad as I had intended.

The waitress came to take our orders, and Clark and I both ordered the same thing, a cheeseburger with steak fries. My mom opted for the spinach salad.

My dad continued to eye the menu, hemming and hawing before finally closing the menu and handing it to the waitress. “I’ll have the fish, broiled with no butter, and the steamed vegetables on the side.”

“What?” I said in disbelief as the waitress gathered the rest of our menus and left the table. “Dad, you always order the steak fries. I can’t believe you just ordered fish!”

He looked at me, almost slightly embarrassed, and then looked at my mom. She put a hand on his arm and then turned to me.

“I’m afraid your dad’s had a bit of a health scare.”

“What kind of health scare?”

“Well, actually,” my dad replied, “I had a mild -- a very mild -- heart attack a couple of weeks ago.”

“What? Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, my voice rising.

“We didn’t want to worry you and your sister,” my mom said. “Your dad was experiencing some mild chest pains, and he thought it was indigestion. Just in case, I had him take a couple of aspirin, and I drove him to see Dr. Fine. Luckily, it turned out to be very mild, but the doctor said we were lucky. He has some cholesterol issues -- I guess it’s always been borderline -- but until this scare, he hasn’t really given it much thought. It turns out that it’s genetic. It tends to run in his family.”

“I don’t understand. Dad’s always been the picture of health. Are you telling me that I’m going to have to worry about getting a heart attack when I get older, too?”

“No, sweetheart. Don’t be silly,” my mom said. “There’s nothing to worry about, now. Your dad is just watching his diet, he’s on medication, and it’ll all be fine. And, you don’t have to worry about yourself. You eat well, you exercise. It’s really nothing to be concerned with.”

“Dr. Fine is a really good doctor,” Clark said. His voice startled me. I’d been so focused on my dad that I’d forgotten he was even there. “My grandmother saw him for years. I’m sure it’ll all be fine, Kate.” He tried to give me a reassuring smile.

I was feeling miffed and scared -- mad that my parents had kept this from me, and scared that my dad could have been close to dying. “I just can’t believe you didn’t tell me. What if something more serious had happened?”

“Then, of course, we would have told you. But, you see,” my mom said, gesturing to my dad, “we’re all here. We’re all fine.”

The rest of the lunch passed in a relative blur. My parents and Clark laughed and make small talk, and I tried to pay attention and follow along with the conversations without being a total bore. By the time we’d gotten our food and started eating, I’d calmed down most of the way and was able to appreciate the easy rapport that Clark and my parents had. Clark was his normal, easy going self, and it was easy to forget we were all sitting at the table with a millionaire’s son -- someone who was probably a millionaire himself. I got caught up looking at his deep, brown eyes as he talked with my dad, and I found myself daydreaming about a future where Clark was a permanent fixture at all of my dinners with my parents. I’d just started to picture what our kids would look like when a voice startled me from my daydream.

“Ready to get your bag?” Clark asked.

I looked around and realized that everyone was finished eating, and my dad was paying the check. “Um, sure,” I said. I spoke to my parents. “I’ve just got to get my bag out of Clark’s car, and I’ll meet you at the car?”

“Sure, dear,” my dad said.

I stood up and followed Clark out of the restaurant.

“You were pretty quiet in there,” he observed.

“Yes, sorry,” I said, shaking my head. “I guess I wasn’t a very good hostess.”

He put his hand on my arm. “It’s understandable. That was a lot to take in.”

I was glad he’d misunderstood the cause of my silence as worry over my dad, and I was slightly ashamed to admit to myself the real reason.

We reached his car, and he retrieved my bag from his trunk.

“Look,” he said, slamming the trunk. “My parents are having a barbecue on Sunday to celebrate the end of the summer. Nothing major. It’ll be pretty low key. Do you want to come?”

“Uh, sure, if you think that’ll be okay? I don’t think we really have anything special planned this weekend.”

“Great. How about I pick you up on Sunday? I’ll give you a call to get directions to your house.”

“Are you sure? I’m sure I could borrow my parent’s car. I don’t want you to go to any trouble.”

“No trouble at all. I’ll need to know where to pick you up for the drive back on Monday, anyway.”

“Okay,” I answered. “That’d be great.”

“Great. I’ll give you a call sometime tomorrow, okay?”

He smiled and made his way to the driver’s side of his car, giving me a quick wave as he got in. I hesitated a second and then turned to find my parent’s car. Opening the back door, I threw my bag in before getting in, too.

“All set?” asked my dad.

“Yep.” I glanced back and saw Clark’s car heading out of the parking lot. I felt a little thrill at the thought of seeing him in a couple of days. I knew I was being silly. He was just trying to be nice. A friend. Nothing more. I thought if I kept telling myself that, one of these days I would actually believe it.

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