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1. Courtney

I either need a therapist, more single friends, or both. Probably both.

Almost a year ago, I made out with Rae’s boyfriend in front of her face. I figured that would be the worst thing I’d ever do as long as I lived.

Then, Saturday happened.

On Saturday, I watched my best friend tie the knot with his soulmate. I clapped and squealed and snuggled with my adorable goddaughter. Then, I went home and cried myself to sleep because I’m a horrible, horrible person.

In my twenty-five years of knowing Logan, I’ve never seen his eyes light up with pure love, not the way they do when he sees his wife Rae or their daughter Autumn. It’s like the entire world disappears. Honestly, I get the impression that he wouldn’t care if the world did actually disappear, so long as his wife and daughter remained with him. He and Rae are made for each other, and Autumn is the perfect addition to their family.

And I cried after his wedding.

After Logan’s wedding. Logan, who lost his dad less than a year ago. Who lost his brother nearly four years ago. Who hasn’t had a mother since. Who spent three years being manipulated by she-who-shall-not-be-named.

After one of the happiest days of my best friend’s life, I cried. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me.

The weird thing is that being happy for him and Rae was what sent me over the edge Saturday. Jealousy would be one thing, but I wasn’t jealous. It’s not like I want a kid or a house or any of the stuff that’s in the next chapter of our adult lives, not yet.

Maybe jealousy would have been better. At least I would have felt something besides emptiness.

I was always content being single, but there’s something about everyone you know getting coupled up that makes you wonder what’s wrong with you and if you’ll ever achieve that happiness. I know that there are plenty of fish in the sea, but finding an eligible bachelor in Salt Lake City is harder than it sounds.

Utah is probably the worst place to date in the entire country. People here get married incredibly young. The motto of college kids is pretty much ‘ring before spring.’ My parents literally insisted that I attend school out of state; they refused to pay tuition if I went to college here because they were worried I’d come home engaged my first spring break. By the time most Utahns hit twenty-five, they’re on kid number two, which means the dating pool is tiny.

I even resorted to spending money on a dating app, the one Layla met Jack on. Unfortunately for me, I’m almost entirely certain Jack was the last decent man on there. Some of the guys are hot, but their biographies are awful. I’ve swiped through so many times that I’ve actually started to detect trends. There’s an inverse correlation between attractiveness and bio quality. The hotter the guy, the worse his bio.

Half of them list the company they work for, which is stupid, but I guess they want to impress all the ladies swiping through. A bunch of big banks set up offices in Salt Lake City in recent years, so I keep seeing the names of prestigious companies over and over. The whole look-at-how-smart-and-career-oriented-I-am strategy lost its appeal after the first fifty investment banking analysts popped up on the screen.

Most of the other hot guys’ bios contain cheesy or creepy pickup lines. The remainder either explicitly say they’re looking for casual sex or, very rarely, say something normal like age or hobbies or a quote from The Office. I barely seem to match with any of those guys, though. I’m at the point where I might ask Rae to take some portraits of me. Maybe better pictures will help me land my soulmate. It’s a longshot, but I’m getting desperate.

Not desperate for a guy. Desperate to feel less lonely.

Tonight, I forego swipes for my sewing machine. The hobo bag I’ve been working on is almost done, and I want to bring it out Friday. Showcasing my own designs is really the only way to get traction out here. Utah doesn’t exactly have a big—or any—fashion industry, so I’m stuck at a boring nine-to-five during the week. In my off-hours, I’m designing handbags and either posting them online or parading them around in the hopes someone compliments me and wants to hear my ‘I made it myself’ spiel.

The online part is the only interesting aspect of my life at the moment. I came across a fashion forum a couple months ago, and I have a few thousand followers now. No one but Rae and my loyal BUI Bags groupies knows. I only told Rae because I had to ask her for photography techniques so I can display my designs, but she’s sworn to secrecy. Usually, I’m pretty confident, but there’s something about admitting that I’m trying to pursue my dreams that makes me feel vulnerable.

I also don’t want to tell anyone about Noah.

Noah and I met on the forum. His mom, Linda Callahan, is high up in the fashion industry, but she’s not very technologically savvy, so he peruses the internet, trying to find up-and-coming designers. He showed her some of my designs, and for the past month, Linda and I have been in contact about making some prototypes.

Noah and I have been in contact too, but we haven’t been talking fashion.

I realize I’m being stupid. In my defense, I know he’s not some bored dude hanging out in his basement catfishing people for shits and giggles. We video-chat, and he’s invited me out to visit him multiple times.

Still, there’s something about meeting a stranger on the internet that makes me swipe through SLC’s eligible bachelors like my life depends on it.

I mean, my future might. Noah lives in Boston. We’ve only been talking for two months, but he’s already hinted at me moving out there to start a fashion career and be with him. I might visit, but I’m not about to relocate a couple thousand miles away if I don’t have a guaranteed, fashion-related income.

Also, I’d only move if I were single, which is probably why I’m trying to find the one via overpriced app. I hate Utah, but the thought of starting a new life in a place I’ve never been is kind of terrifying.

I’m inspecting my newest creation when my phone buzzes with an incoming call from Linda. My heart just about leaps out of my chest. “Hello, this is Courtney,” I answer.

“Hi, Courtney. Linda here. How are you?”

“It’s nice to hear from you. I’m doing well, thanks. How are you?”

“Great, thanks. I have good news. Sebastian loved the preliminary designs you sent last week. He wants to meet in person and discuss a contract.”

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. “That would be wonderful,” I squeal. I clear my throat, trying to force some professionalism back into my voice, and add, “When did he have in mind?”

“Within the month. He’d like to include them in the winter line, so we need to get started ASAP.”

My stomach sinks. Less than two weeks remain in September. No way can I take off work with so little notice. But this is my dream. I won’t choose my boring human resources career over fashion. “Sure. I can arrange that,” I say as confidently as possible.

“Wonderful. Sebastian will be thrilled. I’m excited for your potential as well, Courtney. I’ll have my assistant arrange a flight for you. How is Friday? That will give you the chance to settle in and prepare for a Monday meeting.”

Today is Tuesday. I’ll have to call out sick. “Friday sounds great. Thanks so much, Linda.”

“You’re very welcome. Noah will be very excited too,” she says in a suggestive voice.

I feel my face going red. “Yeah, definitely. I, um, can’t wait to see him in person.”

“I’m sure he feels the same. I’ll email you flight information and a list of what to bring. Thanks for being willing to come so soon, Courtney. I think you’ll find the opportunity worth the inconvenience.”

“I’m happy to. Thank you,” I breathe.

“I’ll be in touch soon. Bye, Courtney.”

“Bye, Linda.”

I plop onto my bed, gazing at my sewing machine the way Logan looks at Rae. My dream is coming true. I can’t believe it.

My first text goes to Noah. As always, he replies in an instant.

Me: Guess who’s coming to Boston Friday 😊

Noah: I can’t wait to see you, baby.

Noah: What are you doing? I want to tell you everything I’m going to do to you when I get you in my bed.

I may or may not have regular phone sex with Noah.

Me: I have to tell friends/fam. Later tonight?

Noah: I’m already hard for you, but I have some photos that can help with that issue.

I may or may not have sent Noah nudes. A lot of them.

Noah: I’ll be ready tonight, too.

Me: You better

Fingers trembling with excitement, I type out a text to my parents asking if I can swing by their house tonight. I send the same thing to Brady, then to my group chat with Logan and Rae. Everyone else I can tell tomorrow, but my family and Logan will murder me if they found out I went more than a few hours without sharing.

Everyone’s around. After a couple deep breaths, I drive to Logan and Rae’s house first. Autumn’s asleep, and that definitely won’t last long.

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