“Because he was here every week that you were gone, asking about you, wanting to know if we’d talked, hoping you would call while he was here.”


“It’s true.” She held the cheese grater up to my face and I saw that there were tears welling in my eyes. “I’m not trying to tell you what to do. I’m just telling you what I think, and I think, whether you want to admit it or not, that you belong with Carter.”

“He said he didn’t feel anything for me when we…”

“When you what?”

I sighed. I didn’t want to talk about my sex-life with my mom, but she was the closest thing I had to a female BFF so I let it out. “We had sex before I went abroad…We actually had sex a few times…” I paused, waiting for a shocked reaction, at least a gasp, but I got nothing. “And I um…I asked him if he felt something between us changing, because I definitely did. I asked him if he had feelings that were more than friend-like, if he felt like there was something more than sex between us, and he said no.”

“You asked him that in person?”

“No. It was in a text message. Same thing.”

“It’s really not.” She clucked her teeth. “Maybe there’s a reason he said that.”

“Yeah, to tell me the truth and to confirm that we should’ve never had sex…Could you at least try to look surprised about all of this? I had sex with him. Sex. With. Carter.”

She laughed. “I’m not surprised at all, Arizona. I’m only shocked it took this long for it to happen.”

“Are you sure you’re my mother?”

“I don’t think you should make any drastic decisions until you talk to him in person. He’s still your best friend.” She gave me a light kiss on the cheek and hugged me before walking outside.

I wiped my face on my sleeve and chopped a few more pieces of chicken, cursing myself for not bringing the cutlery set I had in France with me.

Ugh…I’m turning into a cutlery critic…Culinary school symptom number one…

“Arizona?” Sean wrapped his arms around me from behind.

“Yes?” I smiled.

“Can I ask you something?” He kissed the back of my neck and slowly let me go.


“I told you I’ll be asking you something in front of everyone at dinner, but before that…” He hesitated. “Would you be willing to leave with me tomorrow?”

“What?” That came out of nowhere. “Why?”

“I’m not talking about leaving the States,” he said. “Just this part of the beach. You know I only live five hours away so I was thinking we could go see my hometown for a day or two? We can still come back here before flying back to France.”

I hesitated, thinking about what my mom said, about wanting to know if Carter had a reason behind hurting me so terribly, but I couldn’t think of a single worthy one. “Of course.”

He kissed my lips. “Care to join the rest of us outside now?”

“Very much so…” I kissed him back, now hoping that Carter wouldn’t show up to see whatever he did have to say…

I tried my best to avoid looking at Carter for most of the party, and I could tell that he was avoiding me, too. He’d barely said hello when he arrived; he went straight to my mother, gave her a hug, and sat down at the long picnic table.

Josh, on the other hand, was the one who was surprisingly acting like an adult and talking to Sean and me.

“So, you have used marijuana in a recipe before?” Josh leaned forward, looking at Sean.

“I have.” He smiled.

“What are the chances of you recreating that little entrée for us while you’re in town?”

Nicole slapped the back of Josh’s head with a paper plate. “Don’t you have exams next week? You shouldn’t be thinking about having anything with weed in it. Do your teachers know you smoke?”

“For your information, I don’t smoke anymore.” He rolled his eyes. “I simply buy products that contain THC and devour them. There’s a difference.”

We all laughed and shook our heads. (Well, except Carter.)

“Can I address everyone for a second?” Sean tapped his cup with a spoon as he stood up.

Nicole smiled at me, Carter sipped his beer and looked away.

“First,” Sean said. “Thank you all for being so welcoming. Ari’s told me a lot about you all.”

“Clearly not enough…” Carter muttered and Sean shot me a look.

I smiled and shrugged, mouthing, “Ignore him.”

He kissed my lips before continuing. “I’ve lost all of my family in a horrific accident…All of my friends, too…” He winced. “So it means a lot to be around people who remind me that life isn’t all terrible…”

Nicole put her hand over her heart.

“Anyway…it’s taken years for me to get to a decent place, to feel like living life again,” he said, turning to look at me. “And I promised myself that if I found someone who made me feel something again, a feeling that I couldn’t ignore, that I would seize the moment because I know, personally, that life is way too short to wait to say something…”

Carter narrowed his eyes at Sean, leaning back in his chair.

Josh took a huge gulp of his drink.

“We haven’t known each other that long, Arizona, but…” He clasped my hand. “There’s something about you, about us, that makes me feel alive again. I’m not proposing, don’t worry—” He laughed. “But I am promising you that if you agree to be mine, I’ll be faithful and loyal to you for as long as we’re together.” He pulled out a small ring, a silver and gold band with an emerald jewel. “This is a promise ring…Do you accept?”