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I storm into Gina’s bedroom. “Do you think it’s over?”

She jolts up in bed. “You scared the shit out of me. I thought we had an intruder!”

“Do you think it’s over? Not talking and this shit happening, it means it’s over. Right? Who am I kidding? I wasn’t even his real girlfriend. Not even for a day. There’s nothing to be over.” I laugh sadly and struggle with my tears, and with my conscience, and my desperate need for him.

“I feel bad for you, but Saint’s a powerful man. When Paul betrayed me, I couldn’t look at him, not even a single possession of his. He broke me. And this is . . . this is public, Rachel. How would you feel? If he came with something like this, throwing you for a loop? Give him time to assimilate what’s being said. Maybe he just wants to rationalize.”

Maybe he just needs to count to four, I think to myself.

“I have a temper. . . .”

One instant I’m trying to feel positive by telling myself that I will have a moment to explain, eventually, and the next I’m heavy with grief. The next, I’m one big, gigantic knot of regrets. Remembering those few, rare moments when he completely opened up to me makes me even more anxious to be with him right now, to explain. To make it okay. To hold him. To BEG him to hold ME. “Rachel, what are you going to do with your article?” Gina asks worriedly.

In my hand, on my phone screen, for the thousandth time, I look at that picture of him arriving at M4 after a business trip. Looking like a true, first-class billionaire . . . but flipping off whoever was snapping that picture. All of that glass and technology in the background, and him, in that killer suit, his dark head bent, his eyes shielded behind his aviators. No comment, the caption says. But the finger said plenty.

29

RESEARCH

A short while later I slip into my bedroom and stand, in my socks and his shirt, and stare at my laptop.

Inhaling, I bring it, along with my shoebox filled with note cards, to the little rug beside my bed. I sit Indian style on the floor and read my notes, one by one. Notes on him.

Truth and loyalty, I had written.

Traits he probably admires in his best friends. Traits he may never have found in the women who are after him. Truth and loyalty . . .

That’s all I can write about. The rest of what I’ve learned is too raw for me to share.

But truth and loyalty.

Things Saint values above love.

Things he wouldn’t find in me. I read the back of the card, my scribbled note, this one talking about me.

I SUCK SOOOO HARD.

He’d stood there talking about truth and loyalty while I sat there moved by everything we talked about, absolutely knowing that I was falling in love, helpless to stop it.

And still, I was taking notes. Studying him like a lab rat. As if he wasn’t human. As if he weren’t driven by the same things everyone else is: a heart, a mind, a body, hormones; as if he didn’t need air and water and maybe even love; as if he were this robot to be scrutinized and picked apart for the amusement of the world.

Really? What does it matter that he’s been with a thousand and one women? What does it matter that he’s the city’s obsession and now also mine? He’s human. He’s entitled to the little privacy he has. He’s so damn closed off, he rarely opens up to anyone, and I know it’s because he’s always so judged and scrutinized.

My eyes water, and suddenly I grab the cards and start tearing them up, one by one. Then I lie with all the notes scattered around me and cry a little. Then I look at the scattered mess. What did I just do? Oh god.

If I want to save the magazine, I need to deliver something.

I breathe in and out.

“Rachel?” I hear Gina call.

She peers inside and scans the mess of torn note cards, and then me. As broken as the paper around me.

“Oh, Rachel.”

I start crying.

“I need to write it.”

“Rachel, tell him the truth. Tell him the truth. If he knows you well at all, he’ll understand.”

“What? That I’m a liar?”

“Tell him you love him,” she says.

“He doesn’t want my love. He values . . . truth and honesty, qualities I don’t possess.”

“You possess them in spades. You’re loyal and honest with everyone.”

“But not with him.”

“From the moment you talk to him and come clean, you will be. Make him see it from your eyes. Maybe you can have it all.”

“Whoever gets it all, Gina? Nobody. Nobody, that’s who.”

“But yet we all believe that we can. Isn’t that the point of everything we do? We want it all. So write this piece. And if you still want him, then you should go get him.”

I pause. “I do want him,” I whisper, wiping my wet face with the back of my hand. “It’s a million tiny things that, added up, tell me there is no one in this world, ever, who will have this spectacular effect on me but him. Sometimes I just can’t see myself when we’re together, I’m so lost in him.” I wipe my eyes. “He’s the only man I dream about at night, and the only man I want to wake up next to in the morning. Everyone is after his fame or his money, but I love him not because of anything he has but because he has me. . . .”

“Oh, Rache. Don’t cry. Maybe there’s hope for you two.”

“How can there be? He doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore.”

“He’s fucking hurting, Rachel! Even I can tell, because there’s not one picture of him without fucking shades to cover his eyes. There must be hell in those eyes, Rachel. I can’t believe I actually feel bad for him now.”

“Because I was the Paul in our relationship. I was the liar.”

“Paul played me. You never played him. Your feelings were real.”

I groan and bury my face in my hands. I remember how Helen warned me from the beginning. That I was too young, playing with adults. I hadn’t seen all of this coming. She was right. I was not ready for this at all.

But I take the Kleenex Gina passes, wipe my tears, connect my laptop, boot it up, and write my heart out.

The day I turn it in, Helen tells me that the Edge email servers are bursting with hate mail for me, and she advises me to take the week to work from home.

The day it’s published, I don’t get out of bed. I don’t answer my phone. My mother stops by, but she ends up chatting with Gina because I don’t want her to see me like this; I’m too sad to fake it today, and she knows me so well. She tells me before she leaves, “I’m going to go paint.”

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