What If

Page 51

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"And then what?" she asks when I'm quiet too long, lost in the smile on her face. What I'm about to say releases a thousand of those butterflies she talks about in my chest. "We wait until there's a shooting star, so we can wish on a second chance. And when it happens… I wish for you." Her eyes open. They are so bright, I'm almost blinded by them.
"For me?"
"Yeah. Nyelle, I want be your best friend. But I can't be just friends with you," I explain, taking in the big crystal-blue eyes staring at me. And then… I fall backward.
"You're her… my what if girl. The girl I will forever regret if I let you go." In an unexpected motion, Nyelle wraps her arms around my neck and jumps up on me. I catch her, faltering back a step. I'm never prepared when she does this. "I'm getting your dress dirty," I say, my hands pressed against the curves that the tight dress accentuates so well.
"I don't care," she says, kissing my cheek.
"Because that's exactly who I want to be." She kisses my mouth quickly.
"And that's the answer to the question you asked me."
"What question?"
"The night we were lying on the grass, and I said I didn't know."
"Who you wanted be?" I recall. "Your what if girl," she responds, hugging me.
"The girl you can't be without."
"You're more than that, you know," I tell her. She pulls back to look at me.
"You always have been." Her mouth is on mine, and I can feel the tension leave me. I've run this entire moment over in my mind a thousand times, with a hundred different endings. This one is better than all of them. I'm hoping Zac doesn't come in to find us kissing with her legs wrapped around me and her skirt hiked up to her h*ps with my hands cupping her where the fabric ends and her flesh begins.
She slowly eases away and stares into my eyes, unable to contain her smile. "You know you're never getting rid of me now, right?"
"Sounds good to me," I say, slowly lowering her to the ground but keeping my arms around her. "So… I sent a letter to Harvard, explaining my situation, and they extended my acceptance." My eyes widen.
"You're going to Harvard?" She nods.
"Rae told me you're going to BU. It all worked out perfectly, don't you think?"
"I was waiting to tell you… until you decided what you were going to do," I explain, feeling guilty, not wanting her to think I was keeping it from her.
"You needed to make the decision on your own without me influencing it in any way."
"I know," she says, squeezing me with her head pressed to my chest.
"Have you declared a major yet?"
"I have no idea what I want to do with my life except to have you and Rae in it." A gorgeous smile emerges on Nyelle's face.
"How come Harvard was never on the list?" I ask, holding her against me.
"I wasn't sure if going was because I wanted to go, or because my father expected me to. But I've worked really hard to earn that acceptance. And it's one of the best universities in the country. As Rae told me, I'd be stupid not to go." I laugh.
"So… you found the list?" Nyelle confirms, peering up cautiously.
"I liked the last one," I say, kissing her gently, letting our lips linger.
Her cheeks are flushed when we part.
"I still have one more to check off."
"The hot air balloon?" I confirm.
"We can do that."
"I think I want to get married in a hot air balloon," she announces casually.
"What?" I start choking.
I start choking.
She laughs and then keeps laughing, like she and Rae do when they're messing with me.
"That wasn't nice."
"You should have seen your face," she returns, about to start laughing again, but I interrupt her with another deep kiss. "At least I don't have to worry about your meeting-the-parents fear," she says when she slowly pulls away. "You've already met mine."
"And they scare the shit out of me," I respond.
She laughs.
"Come on. There's something we have to do," she says, stepping away and taking my hand.
"What's that?" I ask as we exit the garage.
Standing in front of the cabin is Rae, holding enough balloons to make me worry they might send her floating off into the sky.
"Relive the happiest day of my life," she announces, squeezing my hand.
"What were you guys doing in there?" Rae huffs; then she notices the grease handprints on Nyelle's dress. "Forget it. I don't want to know." Nyelle takes the balloons from Rae and carefully divides them up between us.
They each have the "You are loved" message tied to them.
"These are for Richelle," Nyelle explains, "from us. So she always knows. And we never forget her." I hold the strings of the balloons with one hand and take Nyelle's hand in the other.
"Ready?" she asks, looking between us.
"On three. One. Two. Three." We release the balloons and watch them drift off.
"I love you," I lean over and say in Nyelle's ear.
"It's about time," Rae grumbles, making Nyelle laugh the laugh that makes everything right. My laugh.
"I've always loved you," she says.
"You were my first wish."

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