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Chapter 15

Normally I’d consider myself a middle of the road exerciser. I wasn’t a hard-core CrossFit type, but usually made an appearance at the gym at least two days a week. My workout routine consisted of running and a weekly yoga class with Jane. So, she was surprised when I suggested we go to kickboxing Sunday morning instead. But I wanted to hit something. The harder the better.

The more I thought about my conversation with Dylan the more frustrated it made me. I’d been so diligent to abolish any attraction that might have sprung up after that first kiss. And he’d been quick to agree it was off limits. It wasn’t like our time hanging out together had been easy. Every day he seemed more attractive rather than less, which meant harder work on my part to stay true to the no-guy pact with Ava. Guys got sexier when you realized they were smart, and thoughtful, and maybe a little complicated. But Dylan had seemed almost totally relaxed around me for the last month, so much so that I thought the attraction was entirely one-sided.

Then why was he suddenly making this a thing? It was selfish and short-sighted of him. And, knowing he was thinking about me like that made it much harder to keep thinking of him in a strictly platonic, all-clothes-on kind of way.

The gym was quiet for a weekend. Most of the people celebrating homecoming were probably still in bed nursing their hangovers. Still, there were a good number of people in the studio, in which heavy practice bags on stands were scattered throughout the room. After a short warmup the instructor told us to pick a bag. Jane and I paired up to practice our punches on opposite sides.

“Don’t lock your elbows,” the instructor was saying to the pair beside us as he came around.

“Nice work. You’re really putting your body behind it.” He walked around to Jane’s side. “See what your friend’s doing? Follow through like that.” What he didn’t know was that Jane was at a distinct disadvantage. Unlike me, she hadn’t come into class feeling ready to murder someone.

I felt like I’d finally figured out where Dylan and I stood. The kiss and resulting attraction had been a minor blip—our interactions had smoothed out and we’d stabilized in the friend zone. Despite our occasionally weird or intimate conversations, I could ignore the odd moment of attraction because I knew what we were.

Then Dylan had to go and change the rules of the game again. I was tired of feeling like I didn’t know what I was feeling. And when I didn’t have to think about what he was feeling, it was so much easier.

“Wow, you have some serious energy today,” Jane commented. “Who’s on the receiving end?”

“Do you and Cass ever fight?” I asked her. Cass was her boyfriend. They’d been dating since last year, but he went to an out-of-state school so she only saw him on break and every few weeks when one of them would travel to the other.

“Sometimes,” she answered.

“What about?”

“Usually it’s when he does something stupid.” She gave me a deviously un-Jane-like smile.

I must’ve looked shocked. “You’d date someone who’s not perfect?”

“I don’t think it can be helped. Guys are dumb sometimes. They say things without thinking. Like last week Cass was visiting and he suggested I go see him for Thanksgiving instead of him coming home because he wants to play in a flag football tournament that weekend.”

“He wanted you to spend the whole weekend on the sidelines?” I figured that didn’t go over too well. Jane was demure but had one of the best bullshit meters I’d ever seen.

“Apparently. We discussed it, and he decided it makes more sense for him to come home instead.” Jane smiled sweetly. Cass sounded like a smart guy. I wouldn’t want to cross Jane either.

“Sometimes,” she added as we shouldered our gym bags and pushed out the door and into the sunshine, “guys are stupid. They can’t help it. It just means that sometimes you have to set them straight.”

It sounded like good advice. Maybe I just needed to tell Dylan where we stood, since he clearly was not getting the message.

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