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Meet Cute Diary / , (by Emery Lee, 2021) -

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Meet Cute Diary / ,   (by Emery Lee, 2021) -

Meet Cute Diary / , (by Emery Lee, 2021) -

, . . Meet Cute Diary. , . . , . , Meet Cute Diary ! ? , . . . , , , .

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: 119
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Meet Cute Diary / , (by Emery Lee, 2021) -
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2021
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Emery Lee
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Logan Rozos
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,
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upper-intermediate
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07:02:26
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64 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

Meet Cute Diary / , :

.doc (Word) emery_lee_-_meet_cute_diary.doc [2.73 Mb] (c: 2) .
.pdf emery_lee_-_meet_cute_diary.pdf [2.14 Mb] (c: 9) .
audiobook (MP3) .


: Meet Cute Diary

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( , ).


Step 1: The Meet Cute The moment Fate brings you together and you connect with this person_even if just for a moment_in a way you never connected with anyone before. Saturday, May 26 MeetCuteDiary posted: It all started with an ice cream shop. The sweetness was already coating the air, the sugar coursing through my veins, getting me high. I_d never been to the shop before, but a friend had recommended it as the tastiest place in town, and I needed to know for sure. But then I noticed him. He walked in with a group of female friends flanking him, and I didn_t think much of it as they sat at the table directly behind mine. Of course, I hadn_t gotten a great look at him, and it_s not like I came to an ice cream parlor looking for love. I finished my sundae and pushed my chair back, ready to go. But just at the moment that I tried to stand, he leaned back, stretching out his arms and bumping into me. I whipped around, eyes widening as I met his, and finally got a good look at him_tall, dark hair, a jawline so perfect he might as well have been the inspiration for the David. _Oh, um, sorry,_ he said, rushing to brush a strand of hair out of his face. My breath caught in my throat, but I managed a quick, _No, it was my fault._ He smiled back at me, and I could tell he was nervous, but I wouldn_t call him on it. After all, I was nervous too. When we parted ways, I didn_t think I_d see him again. As I made my way down the street, I heard the sound of harried footsteps behind me. When I turned around, there he was, a concerned expression on his face and his breathing hard. _Hey, um, you forgot your wallet,_ he said, his face flushed from running. He held it out to me, and I accepted it with shaky hands. I laughed. _Sorry about that._ _It_s okay,_ he said. _Actually, I_m glad I got the chance to see you again. I was wondering if maybe you_d want to get coffee with me?_ And we_ve been dating ever since. Anonymous Bbsdate replied: This is the cutest MCD post ever! I_m so happy for you guys! Unrulycatmom replied: Congrats, you two! Jdbarry replied: I can_t wait to have a meet cute like this one day! So sweet! Load more comments . . . The rideshare smells like weed, which, given I_m in Denver, Colorado, on my way to a college barbecue, I have to admit is a bit too stereotypical, even for me. My brother, Brian, sits by the opposite window, animatedly talking to our driver like the real social butterfly he is. Me? I_ve got my eyes trained on my phone, reading through the DMs sent after my latest blog post. I shoot back little heart emojis and tons of thanks to my many adoring fans. Just enough to show them I still care since I_m going to be preoccupied with family time for the rest of the day. Mountains fly by outside the window, and I have to keep myself from gawking at them because wow, literally everything_s beautiful out here_the trees, the mountains, the vast majority of the guys I_ve bumped into since I got dropped off. It_s funny because I_m in this strange land that_s so different from where I come from, but it_s also kind of comforting. There_s no one here to remember who I used to be, to tell me I have to live like I did for the past sixteen years of my existence. I_m barreling down the highway of my new life with no one to pull that back-seat driver BS. And even if I don_t pass, there_s a part of me that_s starting to get swept up in the magic just a little bit too. Like maybe all I needed was a change of scenery for my real life to begin. So when Brian invited me to tag along to this college bro-fest, I hesitantly agreed. I mean, hanging out with my brother and all of his frat brothers isn_t exactly my definition of a good time, but I_m stuck here for the summer while my parents make the great move from Florida to California, and as annoying as college guys are, I can_t exactly find fuel for my blog locked in a closet all day. I mean, I_m basically the queer Superman, putting on a secret identity that makes me even hotter just so I can go around saving people with my ultra-secret project. It_s called the Meet Cute Diary, a blog designed to bring love to trans kids in need. In a lot of ways, it_s the single most important thing in my life. I lock my phone and slip it into my pocket, glancing toward Brian to make sure he_s not peeking over my shoulder. He leans forward in his seat and makes some dad joke about the retreating mountains, while the driver forces out a fake laugh as he guides us off the freeway. From the highway, I can almost pretend I_m still in Florida, but the second we take the exit, the looming mountains and greenery steal my breath. This tiny little car feels even smaller with trees and rock formations staring down at us. Brian taps a hand against the back of the passenger seat, which is pulled all the way up, a tiny trash bag hung around the headrest. _I_m telling you, man, that play was the worst one I_d seen all season. Like, completely amateur._ Ugh, is he talking about sports? Gross. When we were kids, Brian and I were really close. We_ve only got a three-year age gap, and we used to share everything_toys, music, friends. Then he got a car and a booming social life, and soon I got out of his way so he could impress all his new friends. And really, it makes sense. He_s the athletic type, conventionally attractive, really personable. Straight. Cis. He was the second person I came out to. I told him just before Christmas this past year, thinking it might be easier since he lived halfway across the country. And really, he took it rather well, albeit a bit . . . overzealously? He kept sending me links to books about trans people and trans actors getting roles and just about any article that vaguely related to transness at all. It was all kind of ridiculous, but I_d rather he be a bit too invested in my transition than outright reject it. And in a way, I feel like things between us have gotten better than they were when we were kids. Maybe it_s just me. It kind of feels like everything_s better now that I_ve grown into who I am. When the car stops in front of what looks like a frat house, Brian shoves open the door and hops out like he_s about to run a marathon even though he_s got a long metal tray in hand. I roll my eyes before sliding out after him. I blink back against the overbearing sunlight, and Brian laughs, slapping a hand against my shoulder as he says, _Don_t worry. It_s just sun. It won_t kill you._ Which is bold of him to say since my sun aversion is largely his fault. My current _bedroom_ is a closet, which I told Brian is child abuse, but it_s not really the space or even the lazy metaphor that bothers me. I basically end up oversleeping every morning since no sunlight filters in, which means I lose out on valuable Denver time and even more valuable social media time with all my old Florida friends. And really, this week that I_ve spent in Denver is also the first week I_ve spent openly trans, and it_s stifling to be locked inside all day. I wanna let my hair down, or at least what_s left of it since I chopped most of it off for my transition. We hit the smoky backyard and are immediately greeted by a loud as hell group of college students. Brian passes off the tray to some guy in a baseball cap, who opens the lid with an eyebrow raised. The crowd_s pretty white, so I wouldn_t be surprised if they_ve never seen onigiri before, but Brian stayed up pretty late last night making them. He_s been on a cooking kick for the past month or so since he started dating a white girl who likes _exotic cuisines._ It_s all part of that straight-girl fixation on jocks who _embrace their feminine side_ by cooking and taking care of animals, but definitely not by wearing dresses or makeup. Maggie comes up and kisses Brian_s cheek. I_ve never seen her in person before, but she_s pretty in that tall, thin white girl way, with waist-length brown hair and acrylic nails. Brian introduces me to the group, saying, _This is my brother, Noah._ A Black girl with gorgeous dark skin and a badass fro claps Brian on the shoulder and says, _Oh, a real brother?_ And Brian flushes, his eyes going wide as he jumps in to defend my manhood or whatever. _Yeah, of course he_s my real brother. Why would you think he_s not real? He_s totally valid__ _Brian,_ I say, using a cough to cover the laughter bubbling up in my chest, _pretty sure she means not a frat brother._ Brian lets out a rush of air and says, _Oh, yeah, of course. Biological brothers._ The girl laughs, and Brian awkwardly shuffles me away to introduce me to the rest of the party. I don_t know what he_s expecting out of it since it_s not like I intend to remember more than like two names. The highlight of today is supposed to be the free hamburgers, which aren_t even ready yet. Sigh. Once Brian releases me from my social prison, I drop down into a lawn chair and pull out my phone. In an ideal situation, this would be the part where I stumble into the love of my life, but instead I_m brainstorming new ideas for the Meet Cute Diary. It all started as this way for me to explore my wildest fantasies as a trans boy living in a conservative city. Every time I saw the potential for a real-life meet cute, I_d write it down, clean it up, and add a Disney-worthy ending. Then I_d post the thing as an _anonymous user_ on this trans-centered blog, and people would swoon and root for the imaginary me who found the love of his life at a taco bar or a library. And yeah, it started out as this culmination of my unchecked imagination and desperate need for affection, but now? God, it_s become this hub of trans chatter, a blog with over fifty thousand Tumblr followers cheering on all these trans people in their quests to find love. And as much as I love the attention, there_s something magical about knowing so many people have gathered together behind this belief in true love for people like me, especially when I_m only half-sure I believe in it myself. _Yeah, Noah_s staying with me for the summer._ I look up to find Brian and Maggie looking at me, Maggie with this little smirk on her face. She may not be sitting in Brian_s lap, but if they got any closer, I_d need a crowbar to pry them apart. _Why are you talking about me?_ I ask. Brian raises an eyebrow. _Because you_re staying with me for the summer?_ _Do you like trivia, Noah?_ Maggie asks. _We go every Tuesday if you want to join us._ I do not, in fact, like trivia. I find it to be a complete and total waste of time, and if Brian weren_t dating Maggie, I_m positive he_d agree with me. But I could meet cute guys at trivia, and there_s potential for them to be the intellectual type, which I_m totally down for. _Sure,_ I say. Brian_s got something like relief on his face. I know he_s been eager to get Maggie and me to be friends, so I_m not gonna break it to him that she doesn_t seem like anyone I_d spend an excessive amount of time with. I_ll let him have this moment. Brian gets up to grab them both a beer, so I get up to not be left alone with Maggie. The food_s done, so I snatch up a paper plate and make my way to the cheeseburgers while I work out how to approach this potentially life-changing moment. The burger_s burnt, but I start shoving the whole thing into my mouth anyway. Free food is free food. Turning back toward the group, I slip on something, and everything slows, my eyes widening as my body hurtles toward the ground like a magnet. And then a pair of arms surrounds me, catching me like a parachute just before I hit the ground and carefully guiding me back to my feet. I whip around, my arm brushing the guy who caught me. He_s actually pretty cute_bright blue eyes, a little bit of dark stubble on his chin, dressed in a letterman_s jacket. _Whoa, you okay?_ he asks. I nod because my voice is caught somewhere in my throat. He smiles, and for a second, I can pretend he_s flirting with me. I mean, I_m cute as hell, and he_s probably thinking about how Fate must have been working overtime to bring us together. His eyes rove over me once, like he_s trying to drink me in, memorize every line of my body so he_ll never forget this moment that we spent together. This is the part where he_ll say he doesn_t usually go to college parties, but he_s glad he made it to this one. I_ll laugh shyly, extending my hand as I introduce myself, and he_ll be enraptured, his hands trembling as he returns the gesture. Then he says, _Be careful next time. You almost ate it._ _Yeah,_ I say, but he_s already walking away. And really, his face is already fading from my mind, but God, that could_ve been the perfect meet cute. Why couldn_t he just talk to me? But then, I also know how this works. I_m a gay, triracial trans guy who only passes when the sun aligns with the moon just right and the Earth tilts upside down. Dudes like me don_t just get to stumble into the perfect little meet cute. No, if we want meet cutes, we have to make them ourselves. Sunday, May 27 MeetCuteDiary posted: After he helped me get my footing, he said, _Are you okay?_ I nodded, my heart racing. He really was the most beautiful guy I_d ever seen_one of those hot lumberjack beards and sparkling green eyes. _I_m sorry,_ I said. _I can be clumsy sometimes._ And he laughed, a glint in his eye as he said, _It_s fine. I_m just glad you didn_t make a joke about falling for me._ I laughed too. He stuck his hands in his pockets and said, _You know, I can_t believe we haven_t met before._ _I just moved here._ _Oh, well, would you like someone to show you around sometime?_ I smiled, warmth spreading through me. _I_d love that._ And we_ve been going out ever since. Anonymous Bubblebabe replied: This is beautiful! Love this meet cute! Kissmelikeyoumissme replied: I want a relationship like this! Fungeonparty replied: Thank you for sharing your story! This was so reassuring to read! Load more comments . . . _God, Noah, that_s so corny._ I roll my eyes but otherwise try to keep my face still so my face mask won_t crack. _Yes, that_s the point of the Meet Cute Diary._ Becca laughs, but I can tell she_s already going over the story with her editor eyes, even through my phone screen. Becca and I have been best friends since middle school, but I only let her in on the big bad Diary secret recently. She was the first person I ever came out to back in freshman year, but I still couldn_t bring myself to tell her about the Diary. It_s not as terrifying now that I_m actually out and I don_t live around those Florida bigots anymore, but opening up to her was a huge first step in accepting that I_m really, truly trans. In a way, the Diary_s the most intimate exploration of myself, the kind that_s only meant to be shared with ten thousand strangers who will never know me in real life. But I had no choice but to tell her a few months ago after the thing blew up. It was impossible for me to answer all the messages I got, respond to comments, and churn out worthwhile blog posts. Now Becca_s my official meet cute location scout and editor, finding the perfect places for me to stage my potential meet cutes and combing over all the crap I cough up and working her magic, which has the Diary_s readership rising month to month. It isn_t even considered a disruption to our monthly spa date, a new tradition we made up to keep our lives connected while we_re miles apart. And so far, it_s working, I think. She_s in her bathroom, feet soaking in her tub, and I_ve got this lavender mud face mask I picked up at Target. It_s not the same as seeing each other for eight hours a day at school or her digging through my lunch box every day because my parents make killer Puerto Rican pastries and her parents microwave their tea water, but it_s a start. _He was really cute,_ I say, checking the time on my phone to make sure I haven_t left the mask on too long. Almost as cute as the guy from the ice cream shop with his curly dark hair and the sound of his voice as he passed me my wallet. Actually, I barely remember what his voice sounded like since I never actually made it to the door, and it was pretty loud in there, but I can dream. _Well, I think you said more actual words to this guy than you did at the ice cream shop, so it_s already a step up._ And I suppose that may be true, but what I really loved about the ice cream shop meet cute was the tension in the air, the aesthetic backdrop, the setting. So much cuter to think I actually found the love of my life surrounded by my favorite dessert than at some sweaty frat party, though I guess it doesn_t really matter either way since they were both only _reality-inspired._ _I guess the fans will choose which story is true love,_ I say. _The ice cream shop meet cute_s already one of my most popular stories. Clearly he was my soul mate._ _You know real relationships take actual work, right?_ Becca says. _You_re never gonna find a real soul mate if you keep living vicariously through the blog. You have to look at actual, you know, real life._ _The blog is real life,_ I say, because it_s my life. It_s the single greatest thing I_ve ever made and probably ever will. It_s the entirety of my life_s work and my hopes and dreams all perfectly packaged to share with a world of strangers. _No, it_s fantasy. It_s not like everything just cruises after the meet cute._ _Which reminds me!_ I sing, picking up my phone to look for the file. I knew Becca would say something like this, so I_ve been working on the perfect solution. See, Becca constitutes the more cynical side of our duo. Even when we first met over a science project, she was a take-no-nonsense, get-the-work-done kind of person, and I respect that even if it_s just not the way I prefer to do things. I like to believe in happy ever afters and hidden magic because, well, the world kind of sucks, and sometimes, the hope for a fairy-tale romance is all we_ve really got. Meanwhile, Becca_s always been a bit skeptical about finding the perfect romance ever since her parents got divorced back in seventh grade, but she_s not her parents and neither am I. Once the file_s sent, I look to my phone and meet her eyes. She looks studious for a moment as she skims the note before finally breaking out into a fit of uncontained laughter. _What the hell is this garbage?_ she says between laughs. I roll my eyes. _It_s my twelve steps to the perfect relationship! You know, because it doesn_t just end with the meet cute._ Becca groans. _Noah, I meant you have to commit yourself to a relationship and put in the work to stay with the person, not wait for__she squints at the screen__The Trip, aka The Fall Part One._ She bursts out laughing again, but I just ignore her. She can be as skeptical as she wants, but where she_s all about facts and logic, I_m the love expert, and there_s no doubt in my mind I_ve struck gold. _It_s all about monitoring the steps so you know your relationship is on the right track,_ I say. _That way I can cut it off early if it_s doomed to fail anyway._ _This is literally the opposite of what I meant._ _Well, then maybe you should be more specific next time._ She sighs that I_m too tired to keep calling you out, so whatever, do what you want sigh, but the way she looks at me now is just painful. I know she_s worried about me being out in the world on my own. Well, out in the world, and out to the offline world for the first time, but I_ve assured her I_m okay. Things are different now. Sure, my parents were a little awkward when they dropped me off in Denver and kept driving for Cali, and yeah, my brother_s a bit of a jock and a frat boy, and I don_t think he even knew what the word _trans_ meant until I told him it applied to me, but things aren_t all bad. Really, they aren_t. I_m finally away from our old high school_a place so conservative that the only trans girl who ever came out was bullied into a suicide attempt before dropping out during my freshman year. A place where prayer and God came before all things, and that God was even less convinced of my existence than I was of his. And sure, we_re doing the long-distance thing, but I still have Becca. She_s still my best friend, and even while I_m on a quest for love and she_s doing some super elite, online college program with the University of Colorado this summer, I feel pretty confident she_ll never be able to completely replace me. I_m too damn special. And every time she opens her transcripts, she_ll see Colorado and hopefully think of me, so there_s that. _Noah._ _What?_ I ask. _Did you see this note?_ My phone lights up with the link she sent me. I click on it and find some account called KissyKissyBangBang_which is surprisingly not a porn bot_reblogged the most recent Meet Cute Diary story with: this whole blog is a pile of bs. none of these stories are real. stop buying into it. Which, I mean, okay, I get all sorts of hate on the Diary blog, but this one is different. Really different. They included a link at the bottom of their spiel, and just like that, I_m looking at an entire blog called DebunkingMCD dedicated to finding all the plot holes and inconsistencies in the Meet Cute Diary stories and _proving them false._ I can feel my face mask cracking as stress lines form across my forehead. _Noah, are you okay?_ But I_m not hearing anything Becca_s saying. I_m scrolling, endlessly scrolling, heartily reading each and every post. And they_re good. Really. They point out errors in the timelines, locales, everything. It_s like this person has been following every post over the past year just to have enough ammo to prove none of it was real. And if that wasn_t bad enough, they have a whole section for shitting on me, calling me a teenager who_s probably never even been on a date. Saying I can_t possibly know a thing about love, and I_m pathetic for being invested in trans romance. They even go so far as to link posts about psychology and how these relationships could never work out. _Noah!_ I freeze, my voice shaky as I say, _Yeah._ Becca_s voice is gentle when she speaks next, like she knows any one word could be enough to break me. _It_s gonna be okay. It doesn_t matter what this person posts as long as people disregard it, and they will. They love the Diary._ And I_m nodding along because she_s right. She has to be. This Diary is a beacon of hope for trans people across the globe. I can_t believe the entire thing is being unraveled all because some troll had too much time on their hands. The Diary is important, and people will see that. They_ll ignore this troll and rally behind the Diary. They have to. Monday, May 28 DebunkingMCD posted: It_s honestly embarrassing watching all of you buy into this Meet Cute Diary crap. There aren_t that many trans people in the world, and I promise you they aren_t all getting happy endings. Why don_t you look at the actual FACTS for once? I_ll keep collecting more of them on my blog for people who actually care about logic and reason. Danidani replied: Stop being a hater! You_re wrong about the Diary. Everyelliotistrans replied: Are you sure though? Did you talk to the mod about it? Toorealtofeel replied: I always knew there was something fishy about that blog. Thanks for putting it straight. Load more comments . . . Tuesday morning, Brian starts his job at some summer camp, and I head to town to find coffee. He doesn_t live that far from the city, but I catch a rideshare anyway because I can_t be bothered to walk. Becca sent me a list of tastefully aesthetic coffee shops in the area, so I pick one at random and head out. I need something to keep me busy while Brian_s not around so I don_t spend my whole day checking in on the Diary. Just between Monday night and Tuesday morning, I lost almost a hundred followers. I keep telling myself that they were all bots anyway, and Tumblr_s finally cleaning some of those out, but really, no one believes that. The line at the shop snakes out the door, and I consider turning around and going somewhere else. The truth is, though, it_s really a nice day out, and this place has the perfect vibe for my Instagram. I want to make sure I_ve got enough adorable shots in Denver to convince everyone back home that my life has been nothing but rainbows and sunshine since I left. Someone holds the door open for me, and I step over the threshold. The smell of coffee beans wafts over me, and I inhale deeply because damn, I love the smell of coffee. I_m so far away, I can_t even read the wide, handwritten menu behind the counter, so I pull out my phone and look the place up on Yelp instead. It_s got great reviews, you know, if I trusted people on the internet to dictate my life choices. I flip on the selfie cam so I can swipe my hair out of my face. When my parents told me we_d be moving to California in the fall, and I wouldn_t be returning to my school, I hadn_t even thought about what any of it meant. It just felt like a sudden brush of freedom_a chance to live my truth. So I blurted out that I was trans, and while I sat there in their stunned silence waiting for them to respond, all I could really think about was how soon I could start transitioning. The thing is, I hadn_t even known what the word _trans_ was until freshman year, when that girl had taken the dive and put herself on the line by coming out. Sure, there was a part of me that always felt a little different, but everyone does, right? It was only after learning about another trans person that I even started looking up the terms, searching myself, and researching transition. And really, it all felt like some distant dream I could never achieve until I realized I_d be leaving Florida behind for good. That was only three weeks ago, but in that time, I cut off most of my hair and bought half a new wardrobe. The problem is I_ve never had less than shoulder-length hair before, and I don_t really know how to style it, so it just kinda lies in a poof around my head. I_m almost to the register now, and I can just make out the cute cashier standing behind the counter. He_s got dark skin and the deepest brown eyes I_ve ever seen, and this pair of hipster glasses lying comfortably on his face. I wish I could do more for my hair, but it_s fine. I_ve got this. I step up to the register, and the cashier says, _Morning. What can I get for you?_ His name tag says Ben. Cute, clean, simple. I like it. _Hi,_ I say with a smile, _can I get a medium vanilla latte with no whipped cream?_ _Absolutely. I aim to please._ I grin. _Is there anything else I can do for you?_ Um, yes? You could totally be my boyfriend. But I just say, _That_ll be it. Thanks, Ben._ He smiles, and I feel my heart speed up. This is the part where he asks me how I knew his name, and I make some joke about being able to read his name tag, and then we_re laughing, holding up the line, and he slips me his phone number on the edge of my cup. He says, _Can I have a name for the order?_ _Noah,_ I say. He scrawls it out on a little paper cup before sliding it down the line. _That_ll be four twenty-five._ I pass him my credit card_well, the credit card my parents sent me off with_and watch as he swipes the plastic without another word. Finally, he looks up at me, a soft expression on his face, and I realize this is the moment when he tells me I remind him of someone from his childhood. We_ll talk a little about our hopes and dreams, and before I know it, he_ll be asking me to meet him out back after his shift because he can_t bear to part ways. He says, _Your card got declined._ _I_it what?_ _Do you have another payment method?_ he asks. I shake my head. _Can you try it again?_ He whistles, swiping the card one more time before shaking his beautiful head and passing it back to me. _Sorry, no go. Do you have another card?_ And like, no, I don_t. I only got this one a couple weeks ago because my parents felt bad sending me off into the wilderness with no money to my name. But then I see the opportunity Fate has presented me. I can tell Ben I don_t have any money, that I_m alone in the world with no way to pay, and he_ll grin and say, It_s on the house. I can_t turn down a smile like yours. _I don_t have anything else,_ I say. Ben winces. _Sorry, man. I_m gonna have to take the next customer._ I don_t say anything as I step out of the line and make my way to the door. So, maybe things aren_t going to work out with Ben. It_s fine. Honestly, I don_t even really want to write about him in the Diary. I think it_s best we go our separate ways. I pull out my phone and dial my mom. I haven_t actually spoken to either of my parents in a few days. I imagine they_re busy trying to close on the house or whatever. The line rings for a few seconds before my mom finally picks up with a, _Yeah, honey?_ _My credit card isn_t working. Did you pay it off?_ The line is quiet for a moment, and I can hear some distant garble in the background, probably a car radio. _Yes._ Her voice cuts out again, and I realize that_s the point when she would usually address me by name. She_s been doing that less since I came out, probably having trouble remembering Noah since it sounds nothing like my deadname. _I paid off the card, but I_m not sure how you managed to spend almost four hundred dollars in one week._ I freeze, standing in the middle of the sidewalk. The streets aren_t particularly busy, but the callout still makes me feel like I_m on display. _Well, I_ve had to take rideshares everywhere, and then, you know, expenses._ _The card was just supposed to be for food. Brian said most things are in walking distance, so can_t he just drive you to the rest?_ The truth is, I_d been doing a lot of stuff on my own, partially because Brian didn_t want to spend a hundred percent of his time with his little brother, but also because I was hoping to find my meet cute, which is obviously still a work in progress. And frankly, I_m not a fan of walking. Besides, Becca picks the meet cute locations, and I_m not gonna tell her to stop sending me cute spots just because they_re a couple miles away! _Brian_s been busy,_ I say, _and I have been buying food._ _I read the names of the vendors. There was a bookstore, an ice cream shop__ _Ice cream_s food!_ I say. My mom sighs, and I_m actually glad I called her and not my dad. He_s always been stricter when it comes to my spending habits. _Okay, well, we can_t afford to be paying a second mortgage so you can get ice cream. I froze the card._ _Wait, what? What am I supposed to do now?_ I ask. She chuckles. _Be responsible and get a job? I_m sure your brother won_t mind dropping you off._ Which, yeah, okay, maybe, but definitely not what I had in mind for my summer plans. _I have to go,_ my mom says. _We_re getting to the house, and I need to speak with the Realtor. Maybe ask your brother for some money if you think that_ll help._ But I know Brian_s not gonna give me money. He_s worse than my dad and only about a fifth as wealthy. _I love you. Call me if you need anything._ I_m about to say I need money when the call ends. I know I brought this on myself by being too ambitious with the Diary posts. It_s not cheap stumbling into cute guys at every aesthetic boba, ice cream, and coffee shop in town, but that_s not what I want to think about right now. Hell, it_s like ten a.m., I haven_t had coffee, and I_m stranded. I dig around in my massive pockets_they_re probably my second favorite part about transitioning_and pull out my wallet. I_ve got a couple bills in there and an Arby_s coupon, which I_m not even sure why I have. I check my Starbucks app, but I_ve only got like two bucks on there, which isn_t nearly enough for a latte. I turn back down the street and start walking, hoping I_ll stumble upon a Dunkin_ or somewhere with cheap coffee that just so happens to be hiring teenagers. It_s pretty ridiculous that my mom expects me to get a job in a city without a car. I mean, I doubt there are that many places hiring out here, even if we are pretty close to the university and some decent shops, and frankly, I don_t want to rely on my brother driving me to work. That_s a no-go. I keep walking until I find a coffee shop advertising a one-dollar special. I slip in, pay cash, and choose a small side table under a tall bookshelf. It_s not the cutest, but it_ll do. Once I get my cup with a little foam flower floating at the top, I hold it up just long enough to snap the perfect selfie. Okay, to snap fifteen bad selfies and one I like. Going against my own best interest, I open the Tumblr app and check the Diary_s follower count. Damn. I_m already down another two hundred from this morning. Whoever this troll is, they didn_t come to play, and they_re killing off my followers like flies. I go back to their blog to torture myself a little more. It really is convincing, using the smallest details I wrote into the stories to pinpoint exactly where they were supposed to take place and adding details about each location that seemingly refute the stories. Plus they_ve got sources and statistics about how many trans people even live in Miami_where they traced every early story to_and about how next to impossible it is for there to be that many meet cute stories. And honestly, it pisses me off. I_m not the first blogger to get targeted by some rando with too much time on their hands and a working Google search bar, and they_re right that the meet cutes aren_t real, but they_re stories. What kind of loser do you have to be to spend your time debunking every cute story you come across on social media? And even if they aren_t real, they give people hope. Isn_t that what matters? As my anger starts to burn hotter than my coffee, I give up on saving my day and text Brian to pick me up, saying, Mom stalled my credit card. Come get me. I_m at orientation. Text me the address, and I_ll get you when I_m done. So I do, and I find myself sitting out on the curb hating my life for the next three hours. DebunkingMCD posted: Since you guys still don_t believe me, here are some more links for you. Only 0.6% of the population is trans, the city of Miami has less than five hundred thousand people, and only 6% of that population is between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. That leaves a hundred and eighty people to potentially be featured in over a hundred stories posted on this blog. Are we really supposed to believe one in two trans people in Miami is having the ultimate love story? Byawndone replied: Wow, I never thought of it that way. I guess that doesn_t make a lot of sense, does it? Bdpwsqr replied: These are just numbers! Maybe some people had multiple meet cutes? And some people are closeted! Ilybromine replied: Ugh, I knew this blog was too good to be true. Load more comments . . . I can_t bring myself to write in the Diary. It_s probably just shooting myself in the foot since really, I should be online proving to people that love is real, but I can_t work past the churning in my stomach. I just want to go to sleep forever, or at least until my mom restores my credit card. I completely forget about agreeing to trivia until Brian_s knocking on the closet door like, _Noah, we_re supposed to leave in like five minutes, and I need my shoes._ So I suck it up, using some water to restyle my frizzy hair and spraying on some light cologne so it at least smells like I tried. We slip into the car without speaking, and Brian turns on some classic rock station before pulling out onto the street. After a few minutes, he says, _So, besides losing your only source of income, how did today go?_ Since I came out to him, there aren_t a whole lot of secrets between us, but he doesn_t know about the Diary. Like, sure, he knows that I blog and spend the better part of my life on the internet, but he doesn_t know any of the details, and I intend to keep it that way. Besides the fact that he_d think it_s pointless and immature, I just don_t want people to know about it. It_s my thing, and a little bit Becca_s thing, but no one else_s. I shrug. _It was fine, I guess. How was orientation?_ _Pretty chill. I_m friends with a few of the people who work the camp, so I just took the counselor position to stay busy over the summer. Mom making you get a job?_ I nod, watching the mountains out in the distance. God, are they beautiful. It_s so easy to pretend I never actually lived in Florida, and if I didn_t hate the outdoors so much, they might even be great Diary fodder, but as it stands, I_ll at least need to earn enough cash to continue my usual meet cute scouting if I_m going to keep posting and stand a chance against the troll. _It_s about time, considering you_ve never worked a day in your life._ I roll my eyes. _Do you want to work at the camp?_ Brian asks. _I can get you a job. If I tell them you_re my si__he freezes before finishing__bling, I_m sure they_ll be fine with it._ I smirk, turning to him. _Nice save._ He sighs. _I_m sorry._ And I know he is, but it sure is funny to watch how flustered he looks after he misspeaks, like finally I_m the cool brother, and he_s the awkward one trying to keep up with my moves. _I think I_ll get a job on my own,_ I say. _No offense, but living with you and working with you seems a bit extreme._ He smiles. _Yeah, I get that. Just let me know if you need help or anything._ I smile back. _You_ll regret that._ We end up at a brewery that serves overpriced burgers and like two hundred different beers. They all look the same to me, so I don_t bother counting. Maggie_s already waiting for us there with a few guys and the Black girl from the barbecue. She gives Brian a quick peck on the cheek, and I wonder if they_re toning it down because I_m there. I could remind them that I_m sixteen and not easily corrupted by PDA, but then, I really don_t mind them keeping it PG. Maggie takes down all of our names, and we huddle around the table as she shouts, _Okay, if you know the answer, come tell me_but not too loudly_and I_ll write it down. I don_t want other teams stealing our points._ It seems pretty redundant since I can barely hear what she_s saying two feet in front of my face, and frankly, I_m not particularly eager to get any closer to her than I already am. I wait until Brian decides to order something before ordering too since I can_t pay and I know he won_t leave me washing dishes. The questions fly by, and I try to think about the first few, but I_m terrible at trivia, and I don_t even know what the emcee is talking about. I just keep checking my phone, watching my follower count crash and burn worse than the emcee_s shitty jokes. My DMs are loaded with some pretty nasty messages too. Some people call me a liar, some people call me an abuser, and some people call me things so vulgar, I skim over the words because it feels dirty to even acknowledge that they_re there. And yeah, there_re a few positive messages, a few people asking me to refute the claims against the Diary, but my mind fixates on the attacks. I know I shouldn_t respond to them and fuel the fire, but I kind of want to curse a few of them out to get some of this rage out of my system. _Oye, enough with the phone,_ Brian snaps, reaching to pluck my phone out of my hand. I swat his hand away before he can touch it, but I guess he wins this round anyway since he got my attention off the Diary. _Stop being a nag._ _Live a little,_ Brian says. _Your blog friends can wait._ _They_re called followers, which you would know if you weren_t born at the dawn of the millennium,_ I say. Brian splutters. _So, how are you liking Denver so far, Noah?_ I turn to see Maggie smiling at me. She_s got the thinnest lips on this side of the Pacific, but she makes it work with a touch of lip gloss. _It_s nice._ I don_t want to say it_s too cold for a summer and that I really wish I could be in Chicago or somewhere everything is under a mile away. Really, I don_t know why Brian even wanted to go to school out here. Sure, our old principal, Ms. Cabrera, was a UC Denver alum_and really, everyone loved her, between the motherly nature and spot-on character impressions_but I still don_t think any of the praise she had for the school outweighs the weather and lack of people of color. _He_ll appreciate it even more when he gets a job,_ Brian says. He twirls the straw in his water, which is weird because I don_t think I_ve ever seen Brian exhibit a nervous tic before. He must really be into Maggie. Sigh. _Oh, you_re getting a job?_ she asks. I resist the urge to roll my eyes. If she_s that important to Brian, it_s probably better I don_t chase her away with my biting wit and grade-A sarcasm. _Yeah, you know, gotta carry my weight._ _My favorite bookstore is hiring, coincidentally. You should check them out,_ she says. I stare back at her blankly because working at a bookstore sounds boring as hell, and really, if I didn_t want Brian getting me a job, the last thing I need is a hand-out job from his girlfriend. She doesn_t seem to realize that my look isn_t one asking her to continue because she digs into her little Kate Spade purse and pulls out a business card. _They_re small, and they mostly sell local books, but the owner_s really nice. It might be a good gig for you for the summer._ I take the card because Brian_s watching, and I slip it into my pocket. I can_t say I_m planning to pursue the offer, but I can try to be polite about it. _Is that the one that does all those readings and stuff?_ Brian asks, and it_s so vague I_m not sure if he_s actually familiar with the place or just thinks it makes him sound more impressive. _Yup, that_s the one,_ Maggie says. She drops me a wink and says, _Once you_re working there, you should totally get me a discount._ I smile at the joke_at least, I hope it_s a joke_and turn back to my phone. I_m down just over a thousand followers from this morning, and my stomach feels uneasy. Yeah, the Meet Cute Diary really isn_t faring very well. I_m gonna have to find some way to stop that troll before the whole thing goes up in flames. Step 2: The Hand of Destiny The moment Fate pushes you together despite all reason, and you realize this isn_t something you can just walk away from. Inbox (36) Hannahm3421 asked: Dear Noah, will the next Diary story be up soon? I had a really rough night last night and went to read a new post only to see I_ve read all the most recent ones. I know someone had said some bad stuff about the Diary, but people are still submitting, right? Wednesday morning, Brian heads to work and I_m stuck on the couch googling potential jobs while Becca goes to the dentist. She says the receptionist there is super hot, but I also don_t know what she thinks will come out of trying to date a girl who_s probably at least a few years older than us. But then, Becca_s always been more on the _window-shopping_ side of dating, so maybe she doesn_t mind that. Either way, it_ll be at least an hour before she texts me all the details, so I_m on my third search page in the hopes of actually being productive. I mean, I could _hit the town,_ like my dad used to say, but no one really hires that way anymore. The problem is_well, there_re a lot of problems: my age, my lack of a college degree, my zero experience, and my lack of special skills. I set my phone to the side, and for a moment, even consider turning it off. Every second I have my phone in my hand is another second I feel obligated to skim my inbox and see all the rough messages coming through. I replied to a couple of the positive ones, thanking them for their support, and I put out a statement telling my followers not to believe the troll, but otherwise, I don_t know what to say, and every message just makes me feel guiltier for not having an answer. Becca and I are supposed to brainstorm a plan to fix everything once she gets some free time, so, for now I kind of want to pretend nothing exists_no work, no Diary, and definitely no trolls out to ruin my life. Then I think about that little business card Maggie handed me last night. Well, the troll thing made me think of Maggie, and then I got to the business card. It_s a whole chain reaction. Anyway, I really hate the idea of owing her a favor, but if it_s a simple job I can get just long enough to earn some quick cash, that_ll give me time to work out the whole situation with the Meet Cute Diary. Or, even better, it_ll distract me long enough for the problem to go away. I get up and dig through my pile of dirty laundry to find the card tucked away in my pants. I start by pulling the place up on Instagram. I don_t know how long they_ve been around, but the place looks a little old-timey, with lines of moss along the outside, and there_s a little patio caf?, so I can hopefully get some free coffee once I work there. The place is called Sur La Page Books, and I type it into Google to look for any obvious scandals or life-threatening standoffs. Once they clear that, I decide to give them a call and see if they hire teenagers. The phone rings a couple of times and a deep voice comes through on the other end with, _Hi, what can I do for you?_ Which seems like a wanting introduction, but I say, _Hi, I was wondering if you might be accepting job applications?_ _Um, yeah, sure, I guess,_ the guy says. _I don_t know what the official process is. Just gimme a minute._ I stand by as the guy puts the phone down, the sound of footsteps and muffled chatter drifting through. A few moments pass before he comes back and says, _Hey, sorry, so we actually don_t take applications, but if you wanna come in later, you can do an interview._ _Later? As in today?_ _Yeah, can you do one p.m.?_ I glance at the clock on my phone. It_s just after noon. I don_t have the fare for a ride, but it_s probably only about a twenty-minute walk, so if I leave soon, I can get there on time. I mean, this is a pretty sudden offer, and I_d take it as a sign if I ever saw one. _Sure,_ I say. _Cool. I_ll let her know you_re coming._ The line dies before I can ask who she is and what exactly I should be wearing to such an interview, but it_s fine. If Fate is pushing me to get this job, then I might as well go with the flow and check it out. I don_t own anything remotely dressy since my wardrobe renovations, but I fake it_somewhat clean black jeans, a T-shirt under a vest. I_ve never done a job interview before, and all I_ve really got for reference is Queer Eye, but I also don_t have a whole lot to work with, so I cut my losses and move on. Then I pull up a r?sum? I made in my computer class freshman year, change the contact info, and print it out before racing out the door. It takes me a half hour to walk to the bookstore, and I_m sure that has very little to do with the fact that I_m extremely out of shape. It looks like it did in the Instagram photos, except it_s a bit bigger in person, stuck between two vacant retail spots that look like they_ve been that way for a long time. When I first step over the threshold, a little bell chimes, and the guy from the phone calls out, _One sec!_ My first impression is that there_s way too much junk in this place. Boxes upon boxes of books line the floors, cheesy book puns line the walls, and a soft cinnamon smell drifts around me. I hear footsteps before I see the guy as he navigates the massive stock of books. Then I freeze. It_s Ice Cream Shop Guy. I silently thank the meet cute gods. _Hi, anything I can help you with?_ he asks. He looks a little different than he did when I ran into him at the ice cream shop_his hair is a little messier, his clothes a little dressier, no group of friends flanking him_but his eyes are just as dreamy. He doesn_t seem to recognize me, but maybe he_s just playing it cool, trying to slow his breathing while his heart races at the very sight of me. I follow his lead. _Yeah, I_m here for the interview._ _Oh,_ he says like he_s surprised I_m the guy from the phone. I know the feeling. And my voice tends to be like three octaves higher in person. I haven_t quite unlearned that habit yet. _Gimme a sec. Amy_s in the back._ He jogs back through the stack of books, and I wonder if I should_ve read more before coming. I mean, they didn_t really give me a whole lot of time to prep for the interview. If anyone asks, my favorite author is Fitzgerald because I really love fruit, especially when it_s angry. That is what it_s about, right? Maybe I shouldn_t have gotten all my knowledge of The Grapes of Wrath from VeggieTales. A woman shouts, _Sorry!_ And then I see her jogging up to meet me. She_s short, chubby, her hair in a little pixie cut around her head. _Hi, you_re here for the interview, right?_ _Right,_ I say, passing her my r?sum?. She smiles and takes it without really looking at it, then shakes my hand. She_s one of those middle-aged white ladies who dramatically overenunciate everything and use their hands to illustrate I don_t even know what. _I_m Amy,_ she says. _What_s your name, hon?_ _Noah._ _It_s a pleasure to meet you, Noah. So, all I_m really looking for is someone to kind of keep watch of the shop. I_ve got lots of stuff to do behind the scenes, and I can_t leave Drew at the register all day without a break. Apparently it_s a felony or something._ She laughs, and I force a smile. Drew, huh? _Anyway,_ she says, _it_s not a whole lot of work. You just have to run the register and help customers find stuff if they_re looking. The whole shop_s organized alphabetically._ I glance around at the scattered books because I highly doubt it_s organized at all, but I don_t interrupt. It_s a miracle this lady is even considering me at this point. _Anywho,_ she says, _what do you think? You like books?_ I nod. _Yeah, Fitzgerald_s great._ She laughs, clapping me on the shoulder. _You read classics? You struck me as more of a manga kid._ I blink. _Wait, that counts?_ _Yes, of course it does._ She chuckles, steering me farther into the store. _We_ve got a whole section for it. Those kids come in here, and they are hungry. What kind of stuff do you like?_ _All of it,_ I say, my mind gravitating toward the massive stack of manga I packed up before the move. It_s all in California by now, probably collecting dust in some Public Storage. Growing up with Japanese grandparents, I_d always been into anime and manga and those corny action shows with the specialized martial arts, but I mostly shoved them away in grade school when everyone started calling me a weeb or asking me to be their waifu or whatever. It was like, how can I even enjoy this part of my culture when people have turned it into a fad and a joke? But I never really gave up manga. It_s just the one place I can still find storytelling that acknowledges that part of my heritage. Of course, every teacher and librarian I_ve ever met made it very clear that anything with pictures didn_t count as a _real_ book once you passed the age of, like . . . six. So books with pictures, inverted text direction, and Eastern storytelling conventions? Definitely not. And frankly, while manga_s always been a huge inspiration for me storytelling-wise, I can_t remember the last time I really talked about it. _I started this new series about a girl who_s running from this curse__ _There_s this real popular one. Kids come in here wanting to talk about it for hours, and, well, I just don_t understand,_ she says, waving her hands through the air. _Some academy thing. Boca something?_ _Boku No Hero Academia?_ _Yes, that_s the one! You read it?_ I shrug because, yes, I read it, but she doesn_t need to know the extent to which I read it. _Lovely! I have a couple questions for you, just to see how well you_ll do here._ _Sweet, I_m ready!_ I say. _Let_s say a customer comes in with a return, but they don_t have their receipt,_ Amy says. _What might you do in a situation like that?_ _Return the book?_ _No, no,_ she says, shaking her head. _If they don_t have a receipt, we don_t know that they bought the book from our store. So what might you consider doing in a situation like that? Feel free to take some time to think it over._ I pause, weighing the situation. Truthfully, I know nothing about working retail, and frankly, capitalism is a scam, so if this person wants to return the book, who am I to say no? But obviously Amy_s looking for a specific kind of answer here, so I need to tread carefully. Finally, I say, _I could ask them where they bought the book?_ Amy sighs. _Sure, but if they_re returning it to our store, we already know the answer. So what if they stole it or something? We_re not just gonna give them a refund, right?_ _So I should . . . call the cops?_ Amy_s eyes widen. Drew peeks over at us from behind the counter, holding in laughter. Finally, Amy sighs again, placing a hand on my shoulder as she says, _Noah, you seem like a nice kid, but I_m thinking maybe you_re not cut out for working retail._ _I_oh._ Amy dismisses herself to the back room, and I stand there frozen for a moment, shame washing over me. Well, at least I don_t owe Maggie that favor now. A whistle cuts through the shop, and I look up to find Drew waving me over. Of course, I could just leave the shop and save myself any further humiliation, or I could take this as the Hand of Destiny, Fate pushing us closer together as long as I can seize it. I creep up to the counter and say, _So, you saw that, huh?_ Drew chuckles, leaning forward against the counter. _I take it that was your first interview._ _For a job? Yeah,_ I say. _I_ve done personal interviews, but only online stuff._ _Oh, what kind of stuff?_ he says. And I pause because I didn_t expect him to ask me about it, so I didn_t think mentioning it would be a big deal. But of course it_s all Diary stuff that I can_t really bring up in casual conversation, so I look out at the stack of books and rush to change the subject. _Isn_t this place supposed to be alphabetized or something?_ He winces, following my eyes through the shop. _Well, yeah, it_s supposed to be, but there are a few new releases that came out this week, so we_re kind of swamped. Is there something I can help you find?_ I shrug, tilting my head toward him. _I guess I_m mostly just enjoying the scenery._ He smiles, and wow, it_s super cute, and exactly the kind of response I was hoping for. Perfect white teeth against perfect pink lips. I imagine he_s a great kisser. This is the part where he talks about his passionate love for books, and then he says some cheesy line about that not being all he_s passionate about, and before you know it, we_re making out on a stack of books, getting papercuts in awkward places. _You okay?_ he asks, raising an eyebrow. _You look really happy._ _Oh, what? Yeah, I_m great. I_m just relieved the interview_s over._ I chuckle. He laughs, which is a very nice sound. Like wind chimes, or that Haley Reinhart cover of _Can_t Help Falling in Love._ Then he says, _Sorry it didn_t go so well. Do you like coffee? We have a caf? out on the patio that only operates once summer officially starts in June, but I can brew you something right now if you want it. Consider it a consolation prize since you came all the way out here._ Oh my God. He_s asking me out for coffee. _I_d love a vanilla latte._ He grins. _Classy. I_ll work on it. Watch the register?_ _I got you._ I slip behind the register like they_re actually going to get any customers and just kind of bounce on my heels while Drew heads out back. I feel like it would be rude to be on my phone while I_m manning the counter, but I really want to text Becca and tell her how well this whole thing is working out. I mean, what are the odds that I_d stumble into the ice cream shop guy again? And now he_s in the back making me coffee, which is exactly the kind of creativity I need in a perfect partner. A few minutes later, Drew steps back into the room with a little paper cup. It doesn_t have the floral milk pattern I was hoping for, but I think it still counts for creativity. I mean, he made it, so that_s definitely a start. I happily accept it, smiling as I take a sip and choke. _You okay?_ Drew asks, a sloppy grin on his face. I nod. _Yeah, it_s just hot,_ I say, which isn_t entirely true. I mean, yes, it_s hot, but it_s also really bitter, like maybe he forgot that vanilla is an ingredient in vanilla lattes. But it_s fine. I_m not turning down free coffee, especially not free coffee brewed just for me by a gorgeous boy. _So, are you like a huge book nerd?_ he asks. I giggle. _Not really._ _So why apply to work at a bookstore?_ _I_m staying here with my brother for the summer, and I really need some cash,_ I say. I take a look around at the clutter and hold in a wince. _His girlfriend recommended the job._ _You don_t like her?_ I tilt my face downward. _I didn_t say that._ He smirks. _Didn_t have to. Your voice said it for you._ _I don_t dislike her. She_s just_I don_t know. Not really my type of person, I guess._ _Does it matter? I mean, she_s dating your brother, not you,_ he says. I nod because I know he_s right, and if Brian likes her, that_s all that really matters, but it also sucks when someone you care about is all over someone you hate. Especially when that someone is slowly turning them into someone else. _I guess a part of me feels a little shut out, you know? Like if he gets close to her, that might mean cutting me out to spend more time with her._ And honestly, I can_t believe I just said that. I_ve never been big on opening up about my insecurities, but that one in particular isn_t even something I_ve voiced to Becca. I_m already overwhelmed by just how comfortable I feel around him, like he_s slowly prying me open and spilling my deepest secrets out on the counter. Drew smiles, but I think it_s supposed to be one of those reassuring smiles. _I_m sure you won_t get shut out. I mean, you_re family. You were around first._ I shrug. _Yeah, but first doesn_t always mean better._ And God, I really hate that. Thursday, May 31 MeetCuteDiary posted: It started at a bakery, the two of us locking eyes from across the room and my breath being swept away almost immediately. I hadn_t had the guts to talk to him, and I went home feeling hopeless, knowing I_d never see him again. So when I walked into the bookstore the next day, all tidily dressed for my interview, the last thing I expected was to find him standing there like Fate was pushing us together. As he paged through a book at the front counter, his body froze, his eyes rising to meet mine. _Hi,_ he said. He paused for a moment, like his heart was beating too fast for him to think. _You must_are you here for the interview?_ I nodded slowly. _I am._ He smiled. _Let me get the manager._ He turned to retreat into the back room, and paused, his hand idly drifting toward his curly, dark hair. He turned back slowly, his eyes wide as he said, _Regardless of what happens in the interview, would you maybe want to get coffee with me later?_ I smiled. _I_d love that._ And we_ve been dating ever since. Anonymous Roseybride replied: This is amazing! I love that you two found each other again! Crystalsandgems replied: This is so cute! I want a love story like this! Thedemonsangel replied: This story is adorable. Too bad it_s probably fake. Load more comments . . . _Did he really ask you out for coffee?_ Becca asks. I shrug. _He made me coffee. It_s even cuter. You included creativity on my list, right?_ When Becca and I first decided to take the plunge into the dating scene, we also wrote each other up a Best-Friend-Approved Datemate Qualities list. I was super thorough with hers, making sure to include things like _must acknowledge that 1989 is a better album than Reputation_ and _better not hog the popcorn on movie dates._ You know, the stuff that matters but might get overlooked in the heat of the moment. I just worry sometimes that she may have been a little lax with mine since she_s never taken that kind of stuff very seriously. We both swore we wouldn_t actually read them over until we_re certain we_ve found _the one,_ and I_ve been trying to get Becca to spill for years now, but I_m a good friend who keeps my promises so the list she wrote for me is still tucked away in a shoebox under my bed. Becca rolls her eyes. _Popping a K-Cup into a Keurig is not creativity._ _It was a latte. It_s cute and it counts,_ I say. _I think there_s a lot of potential there. I_d say we_re already deep into Step Two._ _Excuse me?_ I roll my eyes. _My Twelve Steps to the Perfect Relationship? Step Two: The Hand of Destiny. It_s when Fate pushes you together despite reason. Do I need to make you a handout?_ _Okay, Noah, no more romance books for you._ That_s kind of an overstatement since most of my romance experience comes from fan fiction and Wattpad, which Becca knows since she_s the one who got me into fan fiction in the first place. Really, most of my fandoms come from Becca. She_s just always been a lot better at screening media, and it_s more fun watching her critique whatever new show she_s watching while I hit on all the fictional characters than it is to sit in my room reading manga alone. Or, at least, it was back when we could still watch things in person. _I don_t need them. I_ll be experiencing the romance on the books,_ I say, which is kind of regrettable. _Anyway, how was your day with Dentist Darling?_ Becca rolls her eyes, but I can already see a flush creeping up her cheeks. _It was fine. My teeth were clean as usual._ _Okay, but did you at least get her number?_ _No, I didn_t, because that would be weird, and I_d like to be able to go back to my dentist, thanks._ That_s fair, but while Becca always stresses that she thinks I_m throwing myself into the ocean of love without anything to protect me from the waves, she_s too scared to ever leave the damn dock. And of course, I could stress the whole You can_t find love if you don_t take a risk thing, but I know she_ll just say she_s perfectly fine with that. It_s like she can_t do anything without her parents popping up in the back of her head and chaining her down. _Look, let me handle my own love life,_ Becca says. _Go get lost in fantasizing over guys you_ll never see again._ I ignore her comment and say, _I_m your best friend and the romance expert in our duo. Helping with your love life is kind of my job._ She groans. _Just let me figure things out over here, okay? You_re like a thousand miles away. It doesn_t make sense for you to try to steer._ And I can_t pretend that doesn_t sting, because I know distance is separating us, but that doesn_t mean she has to let it come in between us. Finally, I sigh, and say, _Okay, fine. So, the Diary. What do I do?_ Becca sighs too, but it_s her long, painful sigh, the one that says I want to help you but I_m not a miracle worker. _I guess the best thing you can do is try to disprove the troll, right?_ _Okay,_ I say, _but how can I disprove a troll who_s right?_ And really, really dedicated. They make new posts every few hours_probably have a whole queue full of them_and I_ve been mostly silent on the Diary since they started. I_m hoping the Bookstore Babe Meet Cute story will be enough to distract people for a while, but honestly, I feel like I_m just sticking a Band-Aid over a festering wound. Only a matter of time before the whole limb gets amputated. _We just have to pick apart some of the faults in their logic,_ Becca says. _Like, for instance, they start by citing statistics on the number of people who live in Miami, right? But everyone knows Miami is a tourist trap. You can just say that people were visiting._ It_s not the worst plan, but it feels kind of feeble. It_s easy to lose people_s trust, but it_s not so easy to get it back. _Do you really think they_ll buy into it if I post that?_ I say. Becca laughs. _Obviously not. I_ll post it from a separate blog. They_ll be more likely to believe it if it comes from someone not affiliated with the Diary._ _Sweet! Love you!_ I say, and just like that, it feels like Becca_s back to solving all my problems, just like she always has. Step 3: The Invitation It_s the first step toward something intimate, the moment one person offers and the other says, _Yes._ Inbox (57) Emsayshey asked: hi noah. thank you for running the mcd blog. seeing other trans people talk about their love stories every day really keeps me going. it makes me feel like there_s a meet cute out there waiting for me, and i just have to stay alive long enough to find it. but the hate blog going around is really making it hard to be a diary fan. can you ask some of the anons submitting their stories to leave some proof so people will stop believing the haters? thanks! The next morning, I wake up to the sound of Brian slamming the door on his way out and immediately check the Diary. I_m still dropping followers, so I text Becca like Yo, did you make that post or what? but she doesn_t respond, so I read through some DMs that just make me miserable before finally crawling out of bed. I head to the kitchen to heat up some leftover arroz con pollo from last night. Part of Brian_s cooking kick involves actually embracing our cultural heritage_white and Japanese on our mom_s side and Afro-Caribbean on our dad_s_for the first time in his nineteen years on the planet. It_s nothing spectacular, but it_s nice to have something that at least mostly tastes like home while I_m so far away. My thumb opens the Tumblr app out of muscle memory, and I check my recent notifications to see more people commenting on the bookstore meet cute. Despite all the negativity, there_s still a good number of excited commenters, so I can_t be too upset. Then I feel my stomach drop as I remember the interview from yesterday. Yeah, that was pretty humiliating, and I can_t quite say I_m ready to brave the world of job hunting again just yet, but I_m also kind of sad about Drew. Well, about the fact that I_ll probably never see him again since I didn_t get the job. I_m just finishing breakfast as my phone rings, and my first instinct is to throw it across the room because my phone never rings. I mean, sometimes my mom calls, but I don_t recognize the number on my screen. I_m not even sure what area code that is, and knowing my luck, if I answer, I_ll end up on a permanent telemarketing spam list. So maybe it_s the hand of Fate that pushes me, causing me to stumble as I head out of the kitchen and race to grab my phone before it can hit the tile, accidentally answering the call in the process. _Hello?_ the voice on the other end says, and I freeze. _Drew?_ I say. _I_yeah. Noah?_ _Um, hey,_ I say. _How did you get my number?_ _Oh, um, from your r?sum?,_ he says. _That_s not creepy, is it?_ And frankly, if he wasn_t a super hot guy I had two perfect meet cutes with, it might be, but as it stands, my heart pounds in my ears as I say, _Not at all. So, what_s up?_ _Do you mind coming into the store? I kind of want to talk to you about something,_ he says. And there_s a million and a half things that something could be. Maybe Amy changed her mind about giving me the job, or maybe he couldn_t sleep last night, images of me running through his head and making him lose his breath. Maybe it was all he could do to wait until this morning to finally place the call, to bring us closer together again. _Sure, I_m in._ This time around, I walk a little faster, excitement driving my every step. I get to the shop in just about twenty minutes and peek through the window to spot Drew standing at the register counting money. When I tap on the glass, his eyes shoot up, and a grin creeps over his face as he spots me. After slipping the money back in the register, he slides over to the door, unlocking it long enough for me to enter. _You got here faster than I expected,_ he says. I smile. _Well, I was in the area, so it wasn_t a big deal._ _I can go make you some coffee if you want._ I smile as I plop down onto the carpet next to an open box of books. They_re from the local authors section, this particular title called The Blonde Conspiracy. _Thanks!_ I say, and as Drew heads to the back to brew me a latte, I stare at the artfully illustrated book cover and wonder what it must feel like to have a published book sitting in a local bookstore. Before the Diary, I used to try writing new projects every time the inspiration struck, but I always abandoned them. They just never felt all that inspired, like they didn_t have any real life to them. Drew comes out with another cup of coffee and passes it to me. I smile again, noticing the little recyclable symbol on the bottom. I_ve always wanted a guy who fights for a cause, so this just feels like another sign. I take a sip, careful not to burn myself before saying, _So, why did you want me to come in?_ _I kinda want to ask you something, if you don_t mind,_ he says. I say, _Go for it,_ before taking another sip. _Do you run the Meet Cute Diary blog?_ I choke, coffee running from my mouth down the front of my shirt. Drew slips around the counter and returns with some napkins, but I_m still coughing up a lung. How the hell does he know about the Meet Cute Diary? _I_ll take that as a yes,_ he says, flashing me a smile. _That_s super cool. I don_t think I_ve ever met a celebrity before._ I snatch the napkins away from him and use them to try to sop up the mess on my shirt. My eyes burn as I ask, _How do you even know about that?_ _The blog?_ He shrugs. _I_ve been following it for like six months, and I_ve seen the stories cross-posted on Insta too. And there_s that one person on TikTok who role-plays them. Hard not to notice a blog that cute._ Tears spring to my eyes. _You think it_s cute?_ _Well, yeah. A bunch of people finding love on the street? It showed up on my dash one day, so I sent it to my cousin. She_s trans._ I nod along, but my mind is racing too fast to keep up with any of this. Drew knows about the Meet Cute Diary. Drew follows the Meet Cute Diary. _Anyway, there was this post about an ice cream shop like a week ago that sounded really familiar, and then one about a bookstore, and it sounded a hell of a lot like this place, and I didn_t want to come off too cocky by asking, but__ He shrugs again, leaning against the nearest shelf. _And, I mean, the mod_s name is Noah._ I_m shaking. Holy shit. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would come to this. And really, all the times I_d thought about being caught by someone, I thought it_d be one of the bigots at my old school. I always worried they might find me out, figure out that I was trans and bolstering trans love instead of denouncing it all as a sin, and then I_d get expelled or suspended or prayed for at weekly school masses. But this is different. My heart_s pounding in my chest, but it_s excited, not terrified. It_s the moment my mask has been taken off and civilian identity revealed, but at the hands of a fan, one who_s ready to give me all the gratitude my mask has denied me for so long. Then he says, _Does that mean all the stories are made-up? I mean, given that all the ones with me in it had alternate endings._ And I_m deflating, the breath rushing out of me as a blush heats my face. _Yes,_ I say. _They_re all made-up. Fake meet cutes._ He raises an eyebrow. _I mean, they_re cool stories, but why go through all the hassle if they aren_t even real?_ That seems like an odd question to ask since we_re literally standing in the middle of a bookstore. But of course he wouldn_t understand. He_s probably had tons of girlfriends with super cute stories surrounding all of them. He_s a gorgeous cis white guy. He can get anyone he wants, and I_m sure he_s only ever considered when he_ll get married and start a family, not if. I could pick up any volume in this store and show him his happy ending. Of course he couldn_t understand why some of us are so desperate to make our own. _Sometimes people need help believing in love,_ I say. _I try to give them that with the Diary._ I don_t tell him about my fantasies. We_re not quite at that level of our relationship yet. He grins. _That_s pretty great of you. I mean, trying to help random strangers like that. Most people wouldn_t bother._ And I smile because, wow. Becca_s the only person who knows about the Diary because even after changing my name and leaving home, something about it always felt taboo. Like maybe if I voiced my reasoning behind creating the Diary, everyone would just think that I was some kid in over my head making a big deal about nothing. But hearing those words now, especially from some guy I half used to fabricate my stories_well, it_s super sweet. But now he also knows it_s fake, and maybe he doesn_t know about the troll, but he also could, and he could feed them more info to really tear everything down. _Can I be honest with you?_ I ask. He shrugs. _I_m not opposed to it._ _There_s a troll trying to prove that the Meet Cute Diary isn_t real._ He raises an eyebrow. _But it_s not real._ _I know, but people need to believe it is, you know? It_s that belief that trans people can actually have that fairy-tale romance. I don_t want them to lose that, but if they really convince everyone it_s fake__ _I_m sure people will just ignore it. The blog is so popular, and people practically worship you._ But I_m not so sure. I_ve already lost almost two thousand followers, and it_s only been a few days. _I know it probably doesn_t feel like a big deal to you, but there are so many people this is important for,_ I say. _I mean, I_ve gotten messages from people saying the Diary_s the reason they haven_t killed themselves. I can_t just watch that go up in flames._ _No, I get it,_ he says. _Trans cousin, remember?_ I exhale. _So you won_t tell anyone it_s fake?_ He nods. _Definitely not. Actually, I_m gonna one-up you on that. Tell me what I can do to help._ Which, the offer_s sweet enough that it_s already got my heart racing, but I just laugh, awkwardly turning my face away. _The truth is, the only way I know how to save the Diary is to somehow prove that all these fake stories are real._ If this were a romance fic, this would be the part where he takes my hand in his and says, I can_t change every story, but I_m in charge of this one, and I think we can make it real. Just use me. Instead, he says, _Just use me._ Wait, what? _W-what?_ I say, pretty positive I accidentally spilled my thoughts out into the real world and misheard him. He shrugs. _Let_s get dinner. Then you can post some pictures and tell everyone you know the Diary_s real because one of the stories was about you. Sound good?_ I blink, my mind failing to calibrate. Did he just suggest a fake dating AU? Am I in a fake dating AU? _Are you sure you want to do that?_ He laughs, pushing off the bookshelf and closing the space between us. _Why not? I mean, I love your blog, so we_ll probably get along great, and I can_t really turn down a chance at a behind-the-scenes look when I_m sure so many people would kill for one. Plus, I_d hate to see the blog fall apart over some troll._ We stand in silence for a moment, my heart pounding in my ears. I wish Becca were here to see this, or at least a camera crew so I could film it and show it to her later. Drew raises an eyebrow and says, _So is that a no . . . ?_ _It_s a yes!_ I say, a little too fast and a little too loudly. _Sorry, I mean, it_s_yeah, I_d like that._ The front door opens, and my eyes shoot to catch Amy walking in the door. _Drew!_ Amy snaps. Drew rolls his eyes, slipping back behind the counter. _Always ready to work, Aunt Amy._ Amy heads for the back room, and Drew smirks at me. _We can work out the details later, okay? Over dinner?_ I smile. _Sounds perfect._ Inbox (83) Anonymous asked: The bookstore romance was super cute, but I guess that_s easy to do when you make everything up, huh? Are you going to answer the callouts or just keep posting these vague non-explanations? It_s pretty pathetic to keep ignoring everyone. If you_re really some master of love, you should stop hiding behind fake stories, or at least own up to it and stop being two-faced. I text Brian to let him know he doesn_t have to pick me up because I have a date. He responds with, _Is that a joke?_ so I don_t bother answering. Despite getting pretty blatantly rejected for the position, no one sends me out of the shop. Actually, I spend the rest of the day looking for new jobs and reading out some of the Diary comments on my last post for Drew, who_s pretty thrilled about them. The good ones, anyway. I just kind of skip over the bad ones. Becca texts me back halfway through the day to say, Sorry, I forgot to post because of schoolwork. I_ll take care of it later today. So I let her know that I have a solution so she doesn_t have to worry about it even though a part of me is kind of bitter that she just forgot about the Diary so easily. At six o_clock, Drew locks up the shop and turns to me. _What kind of food do you like?_ I shrug. _All food. Food is good._ _I like the way you think._ He takes my hand, which might be overkill since we_re both only pretending to be attracted to each other, and then we make our way down the strip to where most of the active businesses are. There are some bars, some clubs, some dessert shops. Drew motions me toward a fancy little restaurant, and I really regret dribbling coffee down my already too big button-up as we step inside. The host is dressed in all black, his hair kinda wavy like the wind swept it up into the perfect _do on his way to work. I can_t complain as he leads us to a high-top table, which, you know, is kind of hard to reach when you_re like five foot three. Anyway, by the time I climb up into my seat, the host is gone, having left two menus on the table for us. _Order whatever you want,_ Drew says. _I_ve got you covered._ I sigh. _Because I still don_t have a paycheck?_ Drew laughs. _We gotta make this seem like a real date. Oh, and we should probably take a selfie before we get out of here._ _Oh, right,_ I say. When Drew first suggested the fake date, it didn_t feel nearly as real as it does now. Of course, it_s not the date that really has me off guard but the reality of the post, of attaching my real-life face to this online persona I_ve kept separate from me for so long. _I, uh, just a second._ I slip out of my seat and beeline for the bathroom, ducking around a shocked waiter stepping out of the kitchen. It_s a pretty fancy space considering the whole point is to take a dump, but the lights make my skin look yellow as I stare at myself in the mirror. I can_t really say I spend a lot of time looking at my own reflection. I mean, I probably should since I deserve that kind of beauty in my life, but I hate the feeling of looking at a stranger. Like someone photoshopped my image before throwing it into the mirror, and now I_m shorter and thinner and way more feminine looking than I know I_m supposed to be. And once I post this picture, my followers aren_t going to see me anymore. They_re not gonna see the Noah who looks like Pharrell or the Rock or Bruno Mars. They_re gonna see that person in the mirror, the one the world keeps trying to dredge up no matter how hard I work to cover it up. But this post is going to save the Diary, and really, it_s not about me. If wearing a face I don_t feel connected to is enough to save trans love, it_s the least I can do. Besides, mod Noah is a persona I_ve worn for so long, who cares if I have to tweak it a little? No big deal. I run some water over my hands and use it to smooth down my hair a little. Then I take a couple of deep breaths to push the anxiety away before heading back out to the restaurant and slipping into my seat. Drew gives me a bit of a side-eye as I sit down, so I just say, _The Diary_s really important to me. I don_t share it with a lot of people._ He nods once. _Yeah, that makes sense._ _I just want all of this to go perfectly,_ I say. _You know, for the Diary._ Drew smiles. _Well, I appreciate you letting me in on the great big secret, and I_m happy to help. Certainly beats sitting at home rewatching Rick and Morty._ I return his smile and reach for something to cut through the awkwardness in the air. Finally, I say, _So, do you do this often?_ Drew raises an eyebrow. _Oh, yeah, I go out with all the interviewees._ The laughter rolls out of me naturally, like the joke was part of a script he wrote just for me. _Well, it_s technically a fake date,_ I say, though, if he_s a true romance fan, he_ll know exactly how that usually ends. _And thank you for that, by the way. I really appreciate you offering to go out to help the Diary._ He stares back at me a moment before saying, _To be honest, I_ve been thinking about you since the whole ice cream shop incident._ I scrunch my eyebrows, my heart picking up speed. _Because we bumped hands?_ _Well, yeah, I guess, but really I was thinking about the blog post. I don_t know. It was kind of beautiful, if that_s not weird. And it was wild just how much attention it got for such a short post._ And I smile because there_s something amazingly romantic about the idea that this guy has been in love with my writing since before he even knew me. And, well, it_s pretty funny that he thinks that_s the weird part, and not the fact that I wrote a fake story in which we got together without even knowing a thing about him. _The point was to make people believe in love,_ I say. He smiles. _Yeah, I think it works._ It_s like someone loosened a bolt in my jaw because I just can_t stop smiling. Then he says, _Do you think this_ll be enough to save the Diary?_ I pause, the smile dropping off my face. _I mean, I hope so. I don_t know what to do otherwise._ He picks at the edge of his menu, his voice rising an octave as he says, _You know, if you ever need my help with the Diary, I_d be happy to. I mean, I_m a huge fan. It_s like getting to help make a Disney movie._ And all I can think is it_s beautiful how he_s a little timid, but in a good way. _I would love that,_ I say. He flashes me this gorgeous smile as my heart does somersaults in my chest. It_s only fitting that our fake date would close with one of my biggest turn-ons_a smile designed to break hearts. Once dinner_s over, Drew insists on getting me a ride and actually taking it back to Brian_s apartment with me. I don_t know if he just wants more time together, or if he_s worried the driver is going to kidnap me or something, but it_s nice, and I_ll never complain about more time spent gazing longingly into his eyes. I hop out, and Drew pulls me aside, saying we should take a selfie by the curb to show how well our date ended. I agree, posing us for the perfect shot before thanking him and heading up to Brian_s apartment, simultaneously reaching for the front door and the key buried somewhere in my pocket only to find the latter isn_t there. What the hell? Why do men_s pants have bottomless pockets? I groan, tapping out the Victorious theme song until Brian finally opens the door with a death glare on his face. _Why are you knocking?_ _I lost my key,_ I say, stepping past him into the living room. _It_s probably in my other pants._ _Damn it. Do you lose everything?_ _Obviously not._ I jolt back at the sound of laughter, whipping around to find Maggie standing in the kitchen, a plate full of pastelitos balanced in one hand. I turn to shoot a what the hell is she doing here glare at Brian, but he_s already crossing the space back to her, slipping an arm around her waist as he says, _How do you like _em?_ She grins. _They_re amazing. I_m so proud of you._ And then they kiss, and I struggle and fail to keep my lip from curling. _I have to go call Becca,_ I say, dismissing myself to my closet. _Okay, but you have to tell me about your date later!_ Brian calls after me. I pause, turning to see if he_s joking. But his eyes are back on Maggie, the two of them practically sliding into each other. I roll my eyes and slip into my room, closing the door behind me. My first order of business is answering some of the messages I_ve been ignoring. Once I_ve sent out some heartfelt apologies about not answering and how I_ll be making another statement shortly, I work up this dramatic post about how the Meet Cute Diary started as my own exploration of my first relationship, and then get into this whole thing about how some of the stories don_t add up because we changed certain details to keep people_s identities secret. Then I explain that the whole bookstore story was about Drew and post the selfie we took tonight as the final evidence. I consider sending it to Becca first, but she_s been so busy lately. Besides, this post is supremely personal, and I don_t want to lose the nerve to post it by waiting for a response. My hands shake as I hit post, but I_ve given it my best. Hopefully, the post will go viral in a couple of days, and not only will we stop losing followers in droves, but we_ll get a new onslaught of eager followers wanting to know about Drew and me. Then I call Becca. She answers on the third ring, but she says, _Hey, I can_t talk long. What_s up?_ _Do you not want to hear about my date?_ Then she squeals, and I jerk my head back until she_s done. _Okay, you have fifteen minutes, then I have homework. Go._ So I ramble on about the fake date, starting with how he asked me out to try to save the Diary and how he_d been a huge fan for a while. I tell her about how obviously compatible we must be since he loves my writing, and how once the fake date saves the Diary, we_ll probably fall in love, since, you know, that_s how every fake dating story ends. _Okay, but do you really think a fake date will be enough to stop this troll? I mean, after all the lengths they went to just to shit on the Diary?_ _I_ve got it covered, Becca,_ I say. She hasn_t exactly been super reliable lately, so it_s probably easier for me to handle it myself anyway. _And once Drew and I fall desperately in love with each other, it won_t matter what some troll has to say about it._ Becca lets out one of those deep God, you_re naive sighs. _Just promise me that if he steps out of line, you won_t let him walk all over you._ _I wouldn_t do that._ _You did that with Gustavo!_ She_s right, of course. Gustavo was my first date freshman year, back when I was still trying to convince myself that maybe I could be a girl if I just tried hard enough. We went to a movie, and I bought him popcorn, which he refused to share with me. Then he shushed me the whole movie and ditched me at the theater, so I had to call my mom to pick me up. And sure, I would_ve gone out with him again if Becca hadn_t stepped in and burned that bridge, but Drew_s not like that. He_s been nothing but kind to me. And I_m different now too. I know who I am. It_s fine. _I just don_t want you to get so caught up in your fairy tales that you ignore what_s right in front of your face,_ she says. _Yeah, yeah, I know,_ I say. _I don_t need you to look out for me anymore, okay? If you can handle your love life, I can handle mine._ Brian knocks on the door, peeking his head in long enough to say, _Hey, Maggie just left if you wanna catch me up on things._ I smile at him. _Yeah, just a sec._ He closes the door, and I tell Becca I should actually go hang out with him for a bit. _Yeah, go,_ she says. _Your fifteen minutes are pretty much up anyway._ _I_ll update you tomorrow. Oh, and don_t forget to check the Diary._ Brian waits for me in the living room, a small plate of pastelitos on the couch. I plop down next to him and ask, _Is this my share?_ _If you want it._ But I_m not sure I do knowing that Maggie_s been all over it. Actually, Brian_s got a bit of a lipstick mark on his cheek, which tells me that not only have they been all over each other, but Maggie doesn_t even buy smudge-proof lipstick. Wow. _Anyway,_ Brian says, kicking his feet up on the little coffee table. It_s got a bunch of table books, including an old-ass Jell-O recipe book that I_m pretty sure he_s never even opened. _How was the date? Good?_ I push the thought of Maggie slithering her way into our lives out of my head and think about Drew instead, a smile creeping over my face. _Yeah, it was pretty great._ Brian doesn_t need to know that it was a fake date, and considering we_re on track to be the perfect end-game couple, it only makes sense that Brian thinks we_re already together. _Good, I_m glad. When do I get to meet him?_ I cringe, though I probably shouldn_t feel so strongly about it. Drew_s great, and Brian will probably love him, but our relationship is too new. The last thing I need is for Brian to chase Drew away with his weird sports talk and occasionally edible cooking. Just for good measure, I say, _Probably never._ Brian laughs, but his eyes narrow slightly like he_s trying to figure out what I_m hiding. He pauses for a second and says, _Uh, I_ve actually been meaning to ask you, are you, like, into girls or guys?_ I chuckle and shrug. _I mean, I definitely prefer men and masc-aligned people, but I can_t say I_ve never been attracted to any femmes before. I guess I wouldn_t want to rule anything out too quickly either._ He gives me this look like he_s not quite following but says, _Okay, cool. I was just wondering because I realized I didn_t actually know._ _Yeah, I guess my dating preferences got totally eclipsed by the trans thing, right?_ And he looks like I just poured ice water down his shirt. It_s weird because I feel more open in being myself around him now, knowing that he accepts me for who I am and isn_t expecting me to be the perfect sister or whatever, but it also kinda feels like we speak different languages. Like anything I say runs the risk of confusing him so badly he can_t tell up from down anymore. _I mean, it_s not that big of a deal,_ he says. _The trans thing. I don_t think it really changes much. I mean, obviously it_s good that you feel like you_re being your true self now. I just meant that it doesn_t change the way we see you, you know?_ _Wait, you mean I still look like a girl?_ I say, hands coming up to my mouth for dramatic effect. And Brian jerks back, absolute terror washing over his face. _What? No! I didn_t mean it like that at all! I just meant__ _It_s okay, Brain,_ I say, watching as the color returns to his face. It_s been years since I called him that_a little keepsake from when we didn_t have cable and only had old DVDs of _90s television. Sometimes I wish we could go back to that_me being Pinky because my parents thought I needed pink everything to satisfy their thrill at having a daughter, and Brian being the Brain because I couldn_t figure out how to spell his name. But honestly, that person feels like a total stranger to me now, and it_s not because they used to wear the color pink, because I still love pink, and anyone who doesn_t is wrong. It_s just that, back then, I was willing to be anything people told me to be. I didn_t mind that I was dying inside because I didn_t know how to live any other way. But how do you learn to breathe, then opt to be suffocated day in and day out? I_m Noah now, and really, I always have been. It_s not my fault no one believed in Noah until he gave them no other choice. _Noah,_ Brian says, resting his hand on my arm, _I_m sorry. I know I_m not perfect about this whole thing, and I_m really sorry if I make you feel uncomfortable at all._ I smile, wrapping my arms around him. _Don_t be ridiculous. You_re great. I love you._ He squeezes me to him, and I can almost pretend this is the way we_ve always been_Brian and Noah. It doesn_t matter how I was born or who I thought I was back then. I_m me, and we_re brothers, and there_s nothing in the world that can ever change that. Step 4: The Consultation (aka The First Date) It_s where the relationship really begins, the moment the seed is given a chance to grow roots. Inbox (228) Anonymous asked: Congratulations, Noah! I_ve never been happier for someone! Romlover2203 asked: You_re always giving, and now you get to receive! So happy for you! Majorfanboi15 asked: Did you get your neighbor to pose in that pic? I call fake. I wake up the next morning to find that my post has, in fact, gone viral. It_s not quite the top-of-the-world, larger-than-life, getting-a-free-cookie-at-Publix feeling I was hoping for, but it is kind of cool. I_ve got an inbox full of people congratulating me on finding a boyfriend, and a whole inbox of hate that I skim over and delete. I_ll get to the positive messages later. Gotta show up for the fans. I check my follower count and find it_s stabilized a bit. It_s not quite back up to the original numbers, but it_s a little higher than when I went to bed last night. I open my messages to find a text from Becca saying, Nice job! and another one from Drew saying, Morning. Any plans for today? I actually wasn_t planning to do a whole lot except eat, watch anime, and maybe shower, but I want to know what he has in mind, so I say, Not really. You? Wanna come by the shop? My face heats up as I type back a quick, Sure. I get dressed and smooth out my hair, which, yeah, is pretty much a lost cause. Can_t say what Drew is planning if he_s asking me to stop by, but endless possibilities float like little bubbles around my head, and I have to make sure I look hot. Brian_s already gone as I burst through the door. It_s nice out, and I_m feeling great, and I_m actually starting to kind of enjoy the walk. The streets are more bustling than usual, and I wonder if everyone_s just taking in the first few days of summer. I can_t blame them for having that extra pep in their step because I know I certainly do. But also, it_s cold out, and I_m not sure Coloradoans know what the word _summer_ is actually supposed to mean. I slip into the shop with the full knowledge I probably have some horribly embarrassing grin on my face. _Morning!_ Drew_s organizing a stack of books, and he looks up as I approach, a smile creeping across his face. _Hey. You look happy._ _I am happy,_ I say. It_s hard not to be when the Diary_s on the rise again and I_m meeting up with a hot guy who_s bound to fall desperately in love with me. I sit down across from him and resist the urge to help him sort through the books. I really shouldn_t be putting in the effort if I_m not even going to get paid for it. _So I take it everything worked out with the Meet Cute Diary?_ he says. I smile and nod. _And, I mean, it doesn_t hurt that I get to see you._ He smirks, but there_s a slight blush rising in his cheeks anyway. _I noticed you didn_t tag me in the post. You can next time if you want. I don_t mind._ It hadn_t even occurred to me to ask him the name of his blog, but I probably should_ve assumed he had one since he_s been following the Diary. I pull my phone out of my pocket, opening the Tumblr app and passing it to him. _Then I have to follow you._ He smiles, taking the phone and typing something into it. _I_m gonna take a lunch in a half hour, and we can go do something if you want. Maybe grab some food? You know, keep up appearances?_ He passes the phone back, and I accept it, my heart fluttering at his words. _Absolutely._ I_m not sure how long he requests for his break, but we catch a ride out to this block lined with pho shops and Thai food. Drew steers me toward a little local Chinese joint, and we step inside, the smell of duck immediately falling over us. _You strike me as the kind of person who likes exotic food,_ Drew says. And I_m not sure what_s _exotic_ about decent Chinese food, but my stomach_s already rumbling just standing by the front door, and I_m too hungry to care. We get a table, and much to my delight, the menu_s full of Chinese barbecue. Can_t say I_m the best versed in Chinese food, but if it_s meat and it_s barbecue, I won_t complain. _The portion sizes are huge, so don_t overwork yourself,_ he says. I smirk. _You underestimate how much I can eat._ Which, yeah, I_ll go light on the duck because I_m not out to murder his wallet, but damn, my mouth is watering. _So, should we set some parameters on this?_ he asks. I freeze, my lip rising. _What do you mean?_ _Well, if we_re gonna be building this whole fake relationship, I feel like we have to set some ground rules,_ he says. _You know, like who_s allowed to know, and how we_ll behave in public, and all that stuff._ This is a minor hiccup I wasn_t expecting, but not too hard to work around. _The less people know, the less chance the troll will find out,_ I say. He nods. _True. So that means we should probably act like a couple in public, huh?_ I shrug, but really, I_m very much okay with that. _We should make it as real as possible._ _So no flirting with anyone else, then?_ he says. I shake my head. _Definitely not. And we should do all the things we would do if we were actually dating,_ I say. _Especially online, right?_ he says. _Since the troll could be watching. Make sure to tag me in everything, and I_ll play it up from my blog too._ I smile. _So what are your plans for the summer?_ I pause, waiting to see if he_s going to ask me something more about our fake dating before turning back to the menu. It_s basically a full-time job just trying to keep track of all the numbers of the dishes I want to order. _Working, you know, once I find a job. Probably spending some time with my brother. I don_t really have much worked out._ And, of course, having the perfect meet cute romance, but I don_t need to tell him that. _Where are you going afterward?_ _California._ He grins. _Sounds cool. I_ve never not lived in Denver._ _I lived in Florida my whole life until now. It_s a huge change, but I_m happy about it,_ I say. The truth is, I_m cool with never going back to Florida as long as I live. The only fond memories I have of the place are with Becca, and she can just come visit me in Cali instead. _I can show you around if you want,_ he says. _There_s some cool stuff out here. We_re a little limited _cause I don_t have a car, but there_s still some awesome stuff, especially if you like the outdoors._ I do not, in fact, like the outdoors. Bugs, wet grass, spotty cell service? Yeah, sounds like a living nightmare. But it could be cute to do some outdoorsy things with a date. Maybe a short hike or a field of flowers or stargazing in the moonlight. I smile. _Sure, I_d like that._ He smiles back. _My friends are doing a bonfire tonight if you want to go._ Oh, bonfires are sexy. Definitely in. I_ve never been to a bonfire before, so I already feel like I_m leveling up. Not only is this one of those cutesy events that only really exist in old Taylor Swift songs, but it_s perfect for getting some more shots for the Diary. When we get our food, I scarf mine down, and Drew_s eyes widen like he didn_t realize it was physically possible for me to eat that much. When I was younger, my mother always used to say that you shouldn_t eat too much when you_re getting to know a guy_if he thinks you have a big appetite, he won_t want to date you. It only seems fair that now that I_m old enough to make my own decisions, I do the exact opposite. _I_m glad you interviewed to work at the store, even if you didn_t get the job,_ Drew says, and I freeze, duck grease dripping down my chin. _Wait, really?_ _Yeah,_ he says. _I_m glad I met you. Like, actually met you. Being a fan of the blog doesn_t count._ I smile because how do you not smile about something like that? _And I_m glad you_ll be my date for the bonfire._ I freeze. _Wait,_ I say, because we have to play this right. Steps one and two were simple, but was last night the first date or would that be the bonfire? I guess it really depends what I consider to be the Invitation, which, for Diary purposes, was when he suggested the fake date, but that can_t count as a real Invitation because that was obviously staged. The bonfire could be the second date, but that would mean we never had a proper Consultation, which could really screw us over in the long run. . . . _Noah?_ he says. I look up to find him staring at me, just now realizing my fork is halfway to my mouth, so I gently lay it down on my plate. _Sorry,_ I say. _Just working out some executive details._ He raises an eyebrow, but he doesn_t ask. It_s not the perfect dinner and night under the stars I always imagined, but maybe the bonfire could make for a good first date. That would just mean that the rest of this was part of Diary planning, so it doesn_t count. When we leave the restaurant, Drew slips his hand into mine and places a quick kiss on my cheek. _How_s that?_ he says. And wow, I know this is all fake, but it feels pretty damn real_the feeling of his hand in mine, the gentleness when he kissed me, the low tone of his voice like we_re sharing some intimate secret, which, I guess we kind of are. _It_s perfect,_ I say. He smiles. _So, you wanna come back to the shop?_ And it almost feels like a joke that he_s even asking. I mean, he_s gorgeous, and we_re working on creating the perfect romance, even if it isn_t entirely real yet. Why would I want to go home? I squeeze his hand, a smile on my face as I say, _I_d love to go back to the shop with you._ And as he calls the rideshare, all I can think is that for the first time in my life, things are actually lining up with the stories I crafted in my head. Becca, you are NOT going to believe what just happened! Call me when you get a chance! Delivered _You did what?_ I roll my eyes. My parents are driving to another house since the last one didn_t work out, and the static is bad enough that I_m forced to repeat myself every couple seconds. My mom_s always been the type of person who needs to get three things done at once, which means the vast majority of my conversations with her lately have been on the road. I can_t say I_m well-educated on real estate or loans or whatever it is exactly that they_re trying to work around right now, but I know they_ve been having trouble securing a house since the costs are so high over there and it_s a _renter_s market_ or something. _I had a job interview at a bookstore,_ I say. _Oh, that_s great, honey!_ I decided it was about time I update my parents_both because I haven_t spoken to them in a few days, and because I want that credit card back. I don_t have to tell them I got turned down for the job already. Actually, I_m hoping if they think my job prospects are positive, they_ll be willing to pitch in for my travel expenses. _Yeah, the only problem is I can_t afford to get a ride to and from interviews,_ I say. _I feel bad forcing Brian to do it since he works too and has to get there early._ I can practically hear my mom roll her eyes as she says, _You want the credit card back._ _I mean, if you don_t mind. . . ._ My dad chuckles in the background. He_s always said I_m like a bunny rabbit_too cute to resist, but dangerous to underestimate. I can_t say I_m opposed to it. _You can have the card back, but you better not abuse it again, and I expect you to get a job,_ she says. _Thank you, Mommy!_ _Anything else you want to tell us about before we get to the new house?_ I pause. A part of me feels like I should tell them about Drew. I mean, we aren_t officially together, or whatever that means, but we_re going to a party with his friends tonight, and we_ve really been nailing this fake dating thing. I told him that the best way to make sure we convince the Diary fans is to just really commit to it. After all, if we could convince ourselves that we_re a couple, no one online should have any reason to doubt us. And, when we got back to the shop, we basically just acted like a couple, and Drew even went so far as to tell Amy we were going out. Definitely approaching the Trip. Or are we there already? Honestly, I_m still not sure if tonight constitutes the Consultation or if that was dinner. This whole list was easier to follow before I had to put it into practice. Of course, my parents seem to be having a hard enough time navigating a second son. I don_t know if they_re ready to enter our-son_s-boyfriend territory yet. _Noah?_ my mom says, and my heart flutters a little at how natural it sounds now, as if she_s actually been taking the time to practice saying it. _Everything all right?_ _Yeah,_ I say, making a spur-of-the-moment decision. _Everything_s great. I made a friend at the interview, and we_re hanging out tonight._ My dad laughs. _What kind of friend?_ Here I go. _The boy kind,_ I say. There_s silence on the other end of the line. Well, vocal silence and a little bit of static. Then my mom says, _Is this a friend kind of boy or a boyfriend kind of a friend?_ _A little more of the second one, I think._ The line_s quiet again. Then I hear my dad sigh, and it sounds like my mom is passing him the phone. _Noah,_ he says, his voice gentle, _I know you_re a boy now, but the same reproductive rules still apply._ _And I_m hanging up now. Bye, parents! Love you!_ I press the end call button before my dad can give me the make sure he wraps it with care lecture. It was bad enough the first time around. Anyway, I have work to do. Considering this could potentially be the Consultation, I_ll be damned if I don_t look good. Saturday, June 2 MeetCuteDiary posted: There_s nothing like having plans for the weekend and having someone special to share them with. ;) Uncharming replied: OMG, Noah, I_m so happy for you both! Bubblebath replied: Noah!!! This is so cute!!! Gen54life replied: This blog is MAGIC. You_re basically Cupid! Load more comments . . . The party starts at seven even though it_s not really dark yet. I leave a teasing post for my followers to add a little warm-up for the pictures I_ll post after the bonfire. Basically, I want to drive home that I really am the King of Love and let the troll quake in their boots as they watch me transcend the internet to become a love god. And it_s nice seeing all the positive comments, letting them ease me into my big date. While I wait for Drew to pick me up, I text Becca the link to Drew_s blog even though she texted me earlier to let me know she_d be out of contact while she studies for a big exam. Then I sit down on the couch and scroll through it myself to get a feel for Drew_s personality. He doesn_t really make original posts, mostly just reblogging fandom stuff. I skip over all the Star Wars and DC discourse since I_ve never really been into either. It_s nice that we have different fandoms. It means we can share them with each other and find new passions. I stop on the Diary post Drew reblogged detailing our relationship. He added a comment about how important we are to each other, which seems a little strong considering we just started fake-going-out, but the replies are all really supportive, so it_s probably fine. Anyway, Drew shows up a few minutes later and texts me to come outside. _You could_ve come up,_ I say when I greet him on the street. His hair has that windswept kind of messy look and his clothes look carefully chosen even in the awkward yellow lighting near the street. He grins. _Seems a little early to meet the brother, don_t you think?_ His friend lives pretty far out of the city. I can_t make out much as the lights of the city disappear behind us, but there_s a thin, dark outline of mountains in the distance and the stars are already starting to twinkle to life. The house looks pretty normal_two stories nestled on a little hill with a stone walkway leading up the porch. Drew leads me around and into the backyard, where people are already hanging out on a gorgeous stone patio lined with little sparkling string lights. Ariana Grande floats down around us from the speakers embedded in the patio overhang. The crew consists of eight people, most of them holding little red cups or cigarettes. Six mascs, two femmes, probably all cis judging by the jock vibe they_re giving off. _Yo, Drew!_ The guy waving us over is really friendly looking, big muscles under a black T-shirt and man bun. _What_s up, man?_ Drew fist-bumps the guy. _Not a whole lot. Trying to get away from work._ _Dude, you_re so fucking old._ Drew bumps me with his shoulder and says, _This is Noah. Noah, this is Freddie. We graduated together._ I freeze, my eyes widening. _Wait, how old are you?_ _Oh, shit!_ Freddie says, turning back to the other partygoers. _Drew_s going to jail!_ My mind spins as the reality of my situation falls over me. I can_t believe in all the excitement, I hadn_t even thought to ask his age. I mean, shit, he could be thirty with three college degrees and two ex-wives. Okay, probably not the degrees. Drew rolls his eyes and turns back to me. _Eighteen,_ he says. _We graduated last month._ I let out a breath. Drew_s only eighteen, and really, I_m sixteen, so it could be worse. It_s not even technically illegal. It_s basically the perfect line between dating a college boy and dating a high school boy. So, old enough that I probably won_t clue Brian in on it, but nothing to worry about. Really, what I should be worried about is how we_re going to pull off this first date, which I_m only seventy-eight percent sure is actually the first date, but I can_t just pretend this is the second date when we don_t have a first date foundation. No, the stars may have aligned to get us this far, but if we_re going to keep hitting all the marks, I can_t just sit back and leave it up to chance. Drew wraps an arm around my waist and says, _You want a drink or something?_ I can_t say I_m a big drinker. Actually, I can_t say I_ve been to a party that had alcohol before this summer. But I_m also aware that I_m at an event with a bunch of new college students, and it_s not like I_ve never seen a teen movie before. I know how this works_all of us stealing sips out of red Solo cups as we get lost in our youth as some poppy, feel-good music that_ll totally date us plays. I_m not gonna be the loser on our first date who ruins the mood by sitting in the corner fiddling his thumbs, and Drew_s probably hyperaware of our age gap now, so I need to make a statement, show him I_m mature and totally the type of guy who can fit in around his friends. _Sure._ Drew goes to grab the drinks, and I sit down with the rest of the group. They sound like they_re fighting over some video game or something, so I just kind of sit around the edge and pretend I_m actually interested. _You smoke, Noah?_ I look over at the guy next to me. He_s the only member of the group who isn_t white, so I_m tempted to scoot a little closer to him. I eye the bong in his lap, reminding myself that weed_s totally legal here, and it probably wouldn_t matter even if it wasn_t. I need to be cool Noah. Suave Noah. Second-date-material Noah. _Uh, no, not really,_ I say. Smooth. I consider taking a swing at it anyway. Maybe it_ll be one of those scenes where the nerdy kid goes, _Ah, what the hell!_ then I take a long drag, and suddenly everyone_s cheering me on as I mattress surf right off the roof. Drew plops down next to me and passes me a plastic cup. I have no idea what_s in it, but I sip it anyway, fighting past the terrible taste. _Noah_s from Florida,_ Drew says. One of the nameless guys turns to me and says, _Shit, that_s, like, gun country isn_t it?_ _I_m from Miami,_ I say. _I only know like three people who own a gun._ One of the girls leans toward me, her face flushed like she_d been drinking a bit too long. _Wow, you must go to the beach like every day. I wish I could be that tan._ I press my lips together because I honestly just don_t know how to respond. Drew laughs, and I can_t tell if he thinks she_s funny or just acknowledges what a ridiculous thing that was to say, and I wonder if I should say something about how uncomfortable the whole thing is. Then he says, _So, bonfire?_ Freddie stretches and says, _Eh, might as well. Jeff, go get the matches._ A scrawny kid with dark hair rolls his eyes before hopping to his feet and scurrying into the house. I wouldn_t have guessed it from the front, but Freddie_s yard is massive, and the firepit sits somewhere near the middle. We all crowd around it_which probably isn_t the safest since I_m not sure how much everyone_s been drinking_and Jeff comes jogging back with a pack of matches. Drew wraps his arm around my waist again, pulling me to him. It_s almost completely dark now, tiny stars blinking to life above us. The crowd cheers as Freddie tosses the match, and the pit lights up. The heat startles me, and I jerk a step back, a smile already forming on my face at the solidness of Drew behind me. He leans into me and asks, _Wanna take a selfie?_ I nod as he whips out his Galaxy and turns me around so the bonfire_s behind us. The flames amplify the shadows on our faces, but his camera still manages to filter the light just right. I smile as his finger hovers over the button, and just as he_s about to click it, his face turns, his lips catching mine. He pulls away; my cheeks are flushed red. He looks down at his phone to inspect the picture. _Not bad,_ he says, holding it up for me to see. I mean, you can only see like a third of my face because of the angle of his head, but as far as cute-ass bonfire shots go, it_s definitely in the top ten. _Send that to me,_ I say. _I wanna post it on the Diary._ He laughs, sticking his phone back in his pocket. _Fine, but no more Diary talk. You finished work for the night, so let_s have some fun._ I smile. _I_m surprisingly okay with that._ I don_t know how many drinks I have, but Sunday morning, I meet Drew at the bookstore as planned, except I literally feel like death. I had to rest my head against the cool window on the drive over just to keep from heaving all over Brian_s car, and now I_m standing with my head against the counter to stop the pounding. It really was a great night, though. I didn_t keep track of how many times Drew and I kissed, but it was definitely more than the number of drinks I had. It was a little weird being around his friends since they_re a bit older and overwhelmingly white, but after an hour or so, everyone started to blur together into this big, harmonious group. Or maybe I was just drunk. I don_t really know. _Noah?_ _Mmmmm._ I jerk away as Drew_s hand creeps along my back. I hadn_t realized he was so close. _You okay?_ he asks. I nod. _Just a headache._ He throws his head back and laughs, and the sound feels like a sledgehammer against the inside of my skull. I rest my head against his shoulder, the smell of his cologne striking me like a slap to the face, but it_s fine. It_s the good kind of pain. He runs a hand along my back. _So, maybe next time you should sit out the drinking portion of the night._ I giggle. While it started out as my attempt to keep up with Drew and his friends, it didn_t take long for me to realize that I was actually having a ton of fun. Still, it_s nice to hear him say that. Like maybe trying to keep up with him is ridiculous because he doesn_t care if I drink or smoke or sit in a corner fiddling my thumbs. _It was fun,_ I say. _I think I just_well, I may have gone a little further than I should have._ _Is that your way of asking me to keep an eye on you moving forward?_ he asks. I shrug. _I don_t mind having you to protect me._ _Did you see my post?_ Drew asks, but I have to admit I haven_t. It_s not like I was particularly literate stumbling home and collapsing onto my bed last night. I pull out my phone to scroll through his blog. It_s basically all the same post on repeat since he reblogged it like thirty times replying to comments. It_s the picture of us in front of the bonfire with the comment _that moment when you make things official._ _Wait,_ I say. _We_re official?_ He smirks. _Well, official fake boyfriends. I hope you don_t mind me taking the creative liberty on the story. I just figured since people kept asking for more details, we should give them what they want, right? That_s the first post I_ve ever made that got more than ten notes, so I_d say I did pretty well._ That_s definitely an understatement since the post has almost a thousand notes now, and I haven_t even reblogged it from the official Diary account. I guess some fans with enough followers really gave the post traction, which can be a good thing as long as it doesn_t get too out of hand. _You should tell me first next time,_ I say. _I mean, I want to be able to control the narrative we_re painting._ _Yeah, totally, I get it,_ Drew says as he lays out a stack of bookmarks. _I guess I just got caught up in the moment, you know? It_s not every day I get to be a part of something this cool, and I had a ton of fun last night._ I smile, warmth filling me. I remind myself that this is good, not just for the Diary but for our long-term relationship. After all, Drew_s the one who made us fake-official, which might mean he_s willing to make us real-official, like maybe he_s just as into me as I am into him. _Drew!_ Amy shouts, sending another wave of pain coursing through my head. _If you don_t get your ass back to work, I swear to God!_ _Sorry, Aunt Amy,_ Drew tosses back, scooting just far enough away from me that it looks like he actually has a task in mind. He drops his voice low and says, _She_s really been on my ass lately. She hasn_t been able to pull in any extra help, and I guess that_s my problem now._ I giggle, but the truth is I kind of regret coming to the shop. Not that I don_t love the idea of spending my Sunday with Drew, but my head is splitting open, and I kind of just want to crawl into bed for another thousand years. _Can you come by my apartment later?_ I ask. Drew smiles. _Absolutely. Once my shift is over, I_m there._ _Then I should probably head home,_ I say, already reaching for my phone to call a ride. Considering I_m only paying for a one-way trip, my parents definitely can_t call this an abuse of credit card privileges. I just have to make sure to leave out the too-hungover-to-function part when I explain the trip. _Before you go,_ Drew says, sliding back over to me and wrapping an arm around my waist. _You know, for the Diary._ And then his lips are against mine, my body melting against his side and my head spinning, but this time in the good way. Step 5: The Trip (aka The Fall Part 1) It_s the moment the breath slips out of you for the first time and you realize that this person is important to you. Sunday, June 3 DebunkingMCD posted: You guys can_t be serious? This twelve-year-old gets a boyfriend, and suddenly facts don_t matter to you? Literally none of this makes sense. I_ll post more links later. Alwaysforever replied: You_re such a killjoy. Grow up! D.ashing replied: I don_t know. Just because it_s unlikely doesn_t mean it_s not true, right? Dontdrinkthebeanwater replied: OMG, now you_re just being annoying. The Diary_s real. Get OVER it. Load more comments . . . Brian_s really branched out since this whole learning-to-cook thing took off, and I wake up from a sloppy midday nap to the smell of curry drifting over me. Curry actually sounds like a great idea since I haven_t eaten all day and only stumble out of the closet just after four, and really, I don_t even have to worry about him adding too many spices or anything since he_s only learning how to cook to live up to Maggie_s expectations. As I step into the living room_hobbling a bit cause I_m still kind of out of it_Brian raises an eyebrow. I take a seat on one of the bar stools, and Brian says, _I thought you were supposed to be out looking for a job._ I groan, resting my head on the counter. Through the hangover haze, I_d mostly forgotten about that. _I didn_t get very far._ He shakes his head a little as he turns the stove off. _Do I want to know why?_ I shrug. _Probably not. Honestly, I_m not really sure how I_m supposed to find a job anyway._ _Is this your way of asking me to get you that job at the summer camp?_ I actually hadn_t really thought about Brian_s offer since he first mentioned it, but now that he_s bringing it up again, it sounds like a pretty good idea. I mean, I_ll have my weekends free, and I won_t have to worry about transportation since Brian can drive me. _Can you?_ I ask. He gives me one of those I knew it would come to this looks and says, _Yeah, probably. It would_ve been easier if you_d said something sooner, since we_re already halfway through orientation, but I can try._ I_m kind of impressed he made it that easy considering I turned him down a week ago. Then he turns to me, a wooden spoon pointed in my direction. _But anything you fuck up reflects on me, so you better be flawless, got it?_ That_s the response I_d been expecting. _I will,_ I say. _Clean slate. Fresh start. I got you._ Brian rolls his eyes, getting back to dinner. _I invited Drew over later,_ I say. _Is that your date from the other night?_ I nod. I acknowledge that Brian_s only really getting half the story since he doesn_t know about Drew and me being not entirely real, but it_s not important. We_ll fall into place, and after the bonfire, I find it hard to believe he hasn_t started developing feelings for me yet. After all, we_ve been toying around the Trip for some time now, so it_s only a matter of time before we hit that out of the park too. _Look, I don_t want to be the bad guy here__ he starts. _Never stopped you before . . ._ __but were you drinking the other night? With that guy?_ Brian says. I shrug. _Does it matter?_ _You_re a teenager, you_re gonna do what you_re gonna do, but this isn_t like you. I mean, you_re a nerd, not a partier._ I roll my eyes. That_s so something Brian would say, but really, he_s the last person who should be judging me considering he_s been going to parties since he was like thirteen. _Sounds like the pot calling the kernel black._ _First of all,_ Brian says, _it_s kettle. Second of all, I_m not judging you, okay? I just think it_s kind of concerning that you start hanging out with some guy you just met and suddenly he_s got you doing things you would never do on your own._ But that_s the whole point! Drew_s getting me to branch out, to try things I_ve always been scared of doing before. That_s a good thing. _I_ll be fine,_ I say. _Okay, I trust you,_ he says, but he has that same but you better not let me down tone our mom always uses. _Anyway, how_s the curry?_ I shrug. _Not bad,_ I say, and he smiles because he knows that_s about the highest praise I_ll ever give him. _Where_d you get the recipe?_ I ask. _From Mom._ I freeze, the spoon halfway to my mouth. It was bad enough when he was throwing around all these Food Network recipes to please Maggie, but our mom_s recipe? Food is sacred in our family. She might as well have passed down the family engagement ring! _I_ll clear out of the living room when your boyfriend gets here,_ he says, grabbing his own bowl. _I don_t want to think about what y_all are up to._ _We_re not like that,_ I say. Well, not yet anyway. _Yeah, okay,_ Brian says. _I totally believe that._ But the truth is, I_m trying to take things slow. Or, well, slower than my body probably wants. The problem with building the perfect relationship is that the foundation has to be set before all the fun stuff can happen, and everyone knows what happens when you don_t let concrete dry properly before diving in. I have to carefully navigate us through the Trip if we_re going to stand a chance in the long run, and that means not rushing into anything too serious until we_ve both taken the plunge. Well, that, and I_m not even sure I_m ready to be physical with a boy at all. I_ve only ever dated one person, and it was before I knew I was a boy, and it was super awkward, and I hated every second of it. And I know so many people who_ve already had several relationships, fallen in love, had sex_but I also know a good number who haven_t. I just hate feeling like there_s some timeline trying to tell me when I have to get to each new step. It feels like everyone_s taking the elevator up to some secret penthouse party, and I_m not even allowed to take a peek. And if everyone goes up before I do, will they lock the doors? _Whatever you two do,_ Brian says, _just be careful, okay?_ _Dad already gave me the protection talk,_ I say. Brian laughs, stepping over to me and ruffling my hair while I swat him away. _I just meant, you know, tread carefully. I don_t want to be stuck picking up the pieces if this guy breaks your heart._ And I know that_s Brian_s way of saying he would do exactly that should Drew not end up being the perfect guy I_m pretty certain he is, and maybe I should thank him, but my mind is already trying to piece together the perfect look for tonight. And then a thought occurs to me, one I will likely regret later even though I know I have no other choice. _Hey, Brian,_ I say, _you wanna help me with my hair?_ By the time Drew starts knocking on the front door, I_m clad in a pair of skinny jeans and a button-down. Usually I_d top it with a vest or something else to make it especially suave, but I don_t want to look like I tried too hard. After all, Drew_s visiting me at home, which means I need to have just enough of a casual look going on that he thinks he caught me off guard, like I wasn_t waiting too eagerly for him. _Oh, Drew,_ I say once I_ve opened the door and motioned him inside. _I hadn_t expected you so early._ He laughs, wrapping an arm around my waist. _I thought about going home to change after work, but I didn_t want to waste any time._ I smile. _You know, you don_t have to work so hard to keep up appearances while we_re alone._ That_s a ploy, of course. This gives him the opening to say, I know, but every time I think of you, my heart races so fast I can_t possibly imagine letting you go. _Your brother_s home, isn_t he?_ Drew says. _Don_t want to slip up._ Eh, not the response I was going for, but this is probably better. I don_t want us to become too clich? or predictable. I drag him over to the couch and sit him down. I_ve already got my phone mirrored through the TV, and once his ass hits the cushions, I press play on the romantic little playlist I churned out for us. Really, it_s hard to find the perfect romantic songs with everyone singing about unrequited love, bad breakups, and sex. I spent a solid hour sifting through people_s _coffee shop_ playlists until I found enough sickly sweet slow tunes to last us a few hours. I_m open to the idea of staring into his eyes for eternity, but I know that might be weird since we aren_t really a couple. _Are you hungry?_ I say. _My brother cooks. Or I could get you a drink or__ _No,_ he says, grabbing my hand and guiding me down to the couch. _Don_t worry about it. I just want to spend time with you._ The words catch me off guard. God, they sound like something I_d write in the Diary, words so perfect you can_t help but swoon. _Well, you_ve got me,_ I say. _Noah, I__ But his voice cuts off like those are the only two words he knows. I can feel him leaning into me, and I_m leaning back, waiting for him to tell me that he_s waited for someone like me his whole life, and there_s nothing he wants more than to make us permanent. And then he_s kissing me, his lips exploring mine like . . . like . . . eh, forget it. I don_t have time to think up fancy analogies. I_m swimming in his kiss, and everything disappears. I don_t know how this plays into our fake dating scenario. Is it training for more public kissing, just getting us into the zone? Or is it just in case Brian steps out of his room? But really, it doesn_t matter, because sitting there on that couch, the Diary starts to slip away. I don_t know if he feels it too, but there_s a real hunger behind my kisses, real electricity stringing around us and tying us together, whatever titles we throw over the whole thing. This one isn_t for the Diary. This one_s for me. Hello? Rebecca?? I need to tell you about my date! CALL ME! Delivered The next morning, Brian wakes me up early and takes me to work with him even though I haven_t actually gotten hired yet. _It_ll be easier for you to catch up if you_re already there. Plus, once they meet you, I_m sure they_ll be more inclined to hire you._ _Because I_m too beautiful to resist?_ I say. He groans. _Maybe just let me do the talking, okay?_ The _camp_ isn_t really what I was expecting. No fancy log cabin with a draping Welcome to Camp sign hanging over the front door. No husky lumberjack cutting wood out front in flannel. No kids wearing corny moose caps as they run toward the nonexistent lake, waiting to jump off the barely stable pier into murky green water. Actually, it_s not even so much as an actual campground. It_s just a big, blocky community center at the base of the mountains, broken up into three equally boring white buildings and more parking lot than actual greenery around. _All the really outdoorsy activities are held off-site, and everyone just takes a bus,_ he says. _Ugh, that_s disappointing. I thought I_d at least get pictures of myself kayaking down a waterfall for my blog._ _You realize you_re not here to have fun, right?_ _Hm?_ We enter the little office area, where a couple of older people are standing around. And I mean older_latter fifties, maybe? Where are all the hot guys in their early twenties and Speedos? No one really looks up as we step inside, and I cringe at the thought that they might actually be busy. I mean, this is a summer camp, right? All you have to do is let the kids run around and make sure they don_t drown or something. Sounds easy enough. _Hey, Georgette,_ Brian says to the woman shuffling pamphlets behind a long wooden table. She_s got this horrendous green eye shadow on that washes her out, but there_s also cute little kitties on the collar of her shirt, so I guess they cancel out. _This is my brother, Noah. He_s looking to get a job for the summer if there_s any room._ Brian_s voice is all sweet, one of those voices that I_m sure grandmas love. I_m half expecting Georgette to race around the table and pinch his cheeks. _How old is he?_ she asks, not even looking up from her work. _Sixteen._ She looks up at that and seems to catch sight of me, her eyes narrowing slightly. _We don_t typically hire teenagers._ _He wouldn_t be the first, though, right?_ Brian says. _Noah_s a really hard worker, and he_ll apply himself fully._ She glances between the two of us slowly, meticulously, like she_s a cat choosing which of us to claw up first. Finally, she says, _You_re actually in luck. One of our volunteer junior counselors dropped out yesterday, which means our only chance to replace them is gonna be with a paid hire. You good with four- to seven-year-olds?_ I_m surprised she hadn_t already called me a kid, but I just say, _Yeah, I love kids!_ I_m sure Brian can see through my lies pretty easily, but he just smiles at Georgette. She glances from Brian to me again before saying, _I don_t have time to give you an interview, but we can start you up and let your supervisor decide if you_re a fit. That_ll save us some time anyway. You_ll get a weekly stipend if you stay._ I wanna say A weekly stipend? That_s it? Instead, I just smile and say, _Thanks!_ Georgette passes me a pamphlet with the words Bicormac Springs Summer Camp across the front, then turns to Brian and says, _Can you take him to the rec center?_ _Yup,_ Brian says, quickly steering me through the door as the smile falls from my face. _What was all that?_ I ask. Brian laughs. _Georgette_s not the friendliest, but she_s got a pretty good heart as far as I can tell. I wanted to streamline this so I can actually get to work._ _I thought this was just orientation,_ I say. He shrugs. _Yeah, it is, but I_m doing CPR training. You know, because I_m old enough to be trusted with something other than babysitting a bunch of six-year-olds._ I roll my eyes. _Joy._ The rec center is probably the biggest space here. It_s the worst kept from the outside_the white paint peeling and the grass surrounding it looking pretty brown_but on the inside it looks kinda like a high school gym, from the bleachers to the semi-padded walls. The floor feels like a basketball court but the lines aren_t marked. There_s some space against the far wall lined with tables, and there_s like four people bustling around carrying stuff in from a ramp near the bleachers. _Okay,_ Brian says, patting me on the shoulder. _Best of luck, bro. See you after work._ He slips out of the rec center, and I stand there awkwardly for a moment as I consider where to go. There aren_t a whole lot of people in the room period, let alone a whole welcome group of kids my age waiting to introduce me to my assignment. Actually, between the people filtering in and out of the center and the couple of people standing around cleaning or whatever, the only person who looks to be close to my age is some kid sitting off at one of the far tables paging through a stack of papers. It_s kind of a long walk, but I suck it up and head in his direction. Here_s hoping he can tell me what I_m in for, or, at the very least, here_s hoping those papers are a welcome guide plus a map. As I get closer to the table, I realize the guy looks kinda grumpy and unfriendly, which is rather unfortunate since he_s actually really pretty_high cheekbones, a light layer of freckles, really expressive lips. I step up to the table and say, _Hi,_ throwing in a wave for added effect. _Um, I was wondering if you know where I_m supposed to go. I_m new, and__ And then he opens his mouth, but it_s not words that come out. It_s vomit. All over me. I scream, which is really the only rational reaction, and as the wetness slowly drips down my leg, I expect people to rush over and try to save me, but no one bats an eye. The kid finally seems to acknowledge that I_m wearing his breakfast, and he says, _Oh my God._ _You_re saying oh my God, but you_re not the one covered in someone else_s bile!_ I shriek. _I_m so sorry,_ he says, but I_m already backing up to make sure he doesn_t have another serving waiting. He grabs a walkie-talkie off the table and speaks into it, saying, _Bev, can you bring some towels and, um, soap?_ _Soap?_ I say. _How is that gonna help?_ _I_I don_t know,_ he says. He tells me to wait there while he gets someone to clean up the scene, but I_m pretty sure he_s just trying to escape the death glare I_m throwing him. So I stand there like the world_s most disgusting art exhibit, trying not think about it, for another five minutes before a woman_I_m assuming Bev_shows up with some towels and drags me out back to hose me off. And now, on top of ruining one of the best additions to my new wardrobe, I_m shivering out in the Colorado cold smelling like soggy fabric and I don_t even know what else. _Jeez,_ Bev says, her voice a little nasally. _Rough start to the morning, huh?_ And she chuckles, but I_m seething. I mean, besides the fact that this whole thing is so gross I_m worried breathing will make me nauseous, it_s absolutely humiliating. It_s my first day at a new job, and I_m already gonna be the butt of the jokes because Freckles couldn_t hold his lunch. I mean, hell, he should be the one out here turning into a fucking Popsicle, not me. And really, watching Bev have the time of her life as she reflects on how fortunate she is to not be me is really getting under my skin. Finally, I say, _Yeah, rough morning, but probably not as bad as that guy_s. They really let him come to work like that?_ Bev shakes her head slowly. _Devin_ll have to go home for the day._ Oh, is that his name? Gross. I_m sure he comes from some wealthy white family, and he_s only here to kill time over the summer. And the more I think about that, the more inexplicably angry it makes me. I mean, come on. I didn_t even want to be here in the first place, and I only got the job because Brian pulled some strings. _Anyway, you should go back inside. We might have some spare pants in storage if you want to change out of yours._ _Thank you,_ I say, because it_s the polite thing to say, but let_s be real here. My pants are suede, and she doesn_t have anything worth replacing them with. I get back to the rec center to find there_s more people than there were earlier. It_s kind of a relief to know that at least a sizable portion of the staff didn_t see my humiliation. I can only hope I can cover it up. Then I can work on getting paid so I can get back to my summer. Inbox (537) Redgreenmachine asked: Hey, Noah! Love the blog. Have you considered posting relationship advice? Unpinupgod asked: I know you_re probably busy with the new boyfriend, but when can we expect new posts? Weekly? Anonymous asked: Idk if you saw my ask last week, but I was wondering if you_ll be posting more pics soon? The day takes forever to end, before I finally get to climb back into Brian_s car and pretend I didn_t just waste an entire day there. When I went back into the rec center, it was to find that Devin had already left. Shocking. Anyway, I went through _training,_ which mostly just meant talking about the things I should and shouldn_t do with unruly kids, dealing with safety regulations or whatever, and going over the basics of what the camp offered, ninety percent of which I would be nowhere near because I wasn_t a legal adult with any special skills. And, of course, as if the camp stuff couldn_t get shittier, there_s absolutely no cell reception, so I don_t get a chance to look through Diary posts until I_m heading back to the car. People are really eating up my relationship with Drew, actually even more so than they did with the meet cutes. Engagements are sky-high, and people keep asking for more posts, so it_s only fair I deliver. Anything to show the troll that their attempt to bring me down really just raised me higher. Then I see what_s been causing the onslaught of positive messages_Drew tagged me in another post, this one a detailed recap of our date last night plus a picture of me grabbing drinks from the kitchen that I hadn_t even realized he took. The post is cute, and it_s driving a lot of Diary engagement, but it still hits me like a slap in the face. Well, a slap in the fantasies, I guess, since last night had been almost cute enough for me to believe our relationship wasn_t just a show for a bunch of internet fans. Brian greets me with a _Back on your phone already?_ comment because he was obviously raised by cavemen and doesn_t understand that just because something is digital doesn_t make it less important than something in real life. I just grunt in response as I lay my phone faceup in my lap and buckle my seat belt. _Your pants okay?_ I groan before finally looking up to meet his snide expression. _You heard?_ He laughs. _Pretty sure everyone did. That story spread like wildfire._ I force down the heat rising in my cheeks and turn to stare out the window. Yeah, summer camp was a bad idea. I should_ve just applied to an Old Navy or something. _It_s not a big deal,_ Brian says as he pulls out of the parking lot. _I mean, it made for a good laugh, but you_re not the first person to get puked on and you won_t be the last. Though you might be the first person to get puked on by another member of the staff._ I roll my eyes. _Anyway, try not to get too worked up over it,_ Brian says. _I mean, it_s a summer camp. Everyone_s getting some nasty shit on them._ _That really doesn_t make me want to go back,_ I say. Brian shrugs. _Then don_t, but you_re going to have to figure out another job or Mom_s gonna be pissed._ And obviously I know that, but hearing him say it just sinks my mood even lower. Becca better answer tonight because I_ve got a lot to say. Becca? Hello? It_s me, still waiting for a response! Becca, come on, this is getting ridiculous. I_M GONNA BLOCK YOU IF YOU DON_T ANSWER BINCH! Delivered As a matter of fact, Becca doesn_t answer, so I end up calling Drew instead. He puts me on speaker because he_s fixing his little brother_s bike or something, which means I have to keep my language PG in case anyone walks in, but wow, I go off. And afterward, he says something along the lines of, _Are you really that mad?_ So I go off again. _Okay, okay,_ he says, _breathe. At least you have a job, right?_ Maybe, and maybe I_m not really mad at him even if he did post without my permission again, and really, I_m just upset because things have been all kinds of all over the place latelyFilteredting puked on, the massive upsurge in Diary demands since the troll showed up, getting half ghosted by Becca. And yeah, it_s the last part that stings the worst. _Noah?_ _Sorry,_ I say. _I_m just a little distracted._ _Something to do with the Diary?_ he asks. _No,_ I say, _and to be honest, I don_t think it_s something you can really help with._ We sit in silence for a little while, and for a moment, I wonder if he hung up. Then he says, _I_m sorry._ And it_s late, and I have to get up early tomorrow morning to go to work at a job I_m not sure I want, but suddenly I just really want to see him. _How long is it going to take you to finish that bike?_ I ask. _I just finished, why?_ _Do you want to go stargazing or something? Preferably something super romantic? Um, you know, for the Diary._ He chuckles and says, _I_ll be over in twenty._ One thing that_s nice about fake dating an older, cis guy is that we can walk around at night without being worried about someone jumping us. After all, Drew_s close to six feet tall, and while he_s no football player, I don_t doubt he could get a pretty nasty punch in if he tried. It_s cold as hell, and I don_t realize it until we_re already a few blocks from the apartment. Like a true romance hero, he takes off his jacket and slings it around my shoulders, and I snuggle into the overwhelming smell of his cologne until it makes me dizzy. _So, where are we going?_ I ask. He shrugs. _No clue. I just figured we could walk until we find something cool._ But everything_s pretty much closed, so we_re really just enjoying the night. I don_t mind. It_s not like Florida, where mosquitoes swarm every inch of your body if you dare venture out after seven. The air feels cool and dry against my skin, though my breath gets harder and harder to catch with every step. _You don_t do a lot of hiking, do you?_ he asks. I laugh, shaking my head. _I_m from Florida. The closest we have to a mountain down there is a garbage dump._ Drew winces. _Gross. You gotta get out more. I_m sure you can find an awesome hiking trail in Cali._ But I don_t want to think about Cali, or the summer ending and us going our separate ways. I just want to think about the stars as they stare down at us like we_re the only two people in the world, the warmth of his jacket tickling my skin. _Drew?_ I say. He turns to look at me, and I just want to kiss him. So I do. His fingers snake underneath his jacket as they try to find my skin. They_re cold as they slip under my shirt and up my chest. His kisses are hungry, like he_s trying to get control over my body, and a part of me wants to let him. It says that I_m young and it_s the summer, and I should just surrender myself to every desire that_s ever run through my brain. But another part of me just feels like something_s wrong. I pull away from him, my breath ragged from the walk and the kissing. _I_m sorry,_ I say, but I_m not sure why. I mean, he kissed me back, so he must not have hated it, but there_s no one around to perform for, and I_m not sure what it means about us or me or anything anymore. _What_s wrong?_ he asks. And I don_t know. Maybe I called the steps to the perfect relationship too well, and I_m getting lost in the Hesitation that_ll build us up to the perfect peak, but God, I wish we could just move past that already. Drew_s looking at me like he misses my body against his, and I want to give him that. But I also want to go home. _I_m sorry,_ I say. _I_m just getting kind of tired._ He runs a hand through his hair and sighs. _Yeah, it is pretty late, huh? You wanna head back?_ I nod, relieved that he doesn_t push me for anything else. He just slips his hand into mine, and we trace the street again, creeping our way back to the apartment. Finally, when we_re downstairs, I start pulling his jacket off to hand back to him, but he says, _It_s fine. I_ll get it next time._ I want to object because something about the weight of it feels too heavy on my shoulders, but I don_t. I know I already ruined his night. The last thing I want to do is insult him. He bids me good night, and I race upstairs, shielding my face from the cold and the humiliation washing over me. Inbox (783) Anonymous asked: Hi, Noah! Are your posts getting deleted? I haven_t seen any in a while. Msjaygatsby asked: I_m sure your inbox is full, but did you get my last ask? I don_t want to hound you if you did. Pinkpurpleblue asked: When do we get relationship updates? TBH I love those more than the meet cutes! The next morning, Brian doesn_t ask why I was out so late, but I know he heard me come home. Part of me_s relieved that he_s giving me my space, but the other part wishes he_d act more like our parents_lecturing me about being responsible and staying safe and making me feel like all these decisions aren_t hanging on my shoulders alone, even if I did kind of give him shit for it the other day. I_m exhausted since I didn_t go to sleep until almost two and Brian woke me up at six thirty. It_s pretty ridiculous that they make us come in this early since the camp hasn_t even actually started yet, but I guess Brian_s orientation involves actual work that takes actual time instead of sitting around listening to a bunch of old people talk about their grandkids. The bright lights of the rec center give me a headache, and I struggle to keep my eyes open as I plop myself down onto the bleachers. The mistake I made yesterday was thinking I needed to seek out some responsibilities. I_m all but useless around here, so if anyone needs me, they_ll find me. And even though I embarrassed myself last night, I really wish Drew were here. No, I wish I were back at the bookstore. Drew could brew me coffee, and we could talk about the Diary, and things would fall into place. _Good morning._ I look up and cringe. Devin_s standing over me, a square cup carrier in his hands with two Starbucks cups in it. _What?_ I snap. _I_I_m really sorry about yesterday,_ he says. _I brought you a peace offering._ His hands are shaking so badly, I_m pretty sure he_s going to dump the hot coffee out on me. Two for two, I guess. I stand up and steady the carrier before it can slip out of his hands. _Are they both for me?_ I ask. His eyes widen. _Do you want both?_ I shrug, but just settle on taking one of the cups. If he drops the other one, it_s his own problem. _What is it?_ I ask as I bring the lid to my lips. _Vanilla latte._ I freeze, considering chucking the cursed drink across the room but also realizing this is my only chance at coffee for the day. _How did you know vanilla lattes are my favorite drink?_ Devin blinks, removing his own cup from the carrier and setting the ugly cardboard on the bleachers. _I didn_t,_ he says. _I just figured they_re a classic._ Accepting he hasn_t secretly been stalking my life since before I met him, I take a sip, and God, I missed Starbucks coffee. So sweet and pure. I_m hoping Devin_ll take that as his cue to leave, but instead, he sits down, graciously about a foot and a half away from me. He starts picking at the lid of his cup, then says, _I really am sorry about yesterday. I didn_t think that would happen._ I roll my eyes. _Yeah, neither did I. Ever the optimist._ He looks up at that and smiles, but I don_t know what the hell he_s smiling at. _I was hoping we could start over. You know, because we_ll be working together for the summer._ It does feel a little hypocritical to tell him to go fuck himself while I_m drinking the coffee he brought me, but I_m also not sure how else to make it clear that I didn_t come here to make friends. Finally, I sigh, setting my coffee down and holding out a hand to him, saying, _Noah._ He takes it and smiles. _Devin._ _So I_ve heard._ _You_re Brian_s brother, right?_ he says. I pause, an eyebrow raised. _Did he tell you about me?_ Devin shakes his head. _I just overheard some people in the office talking about it._ We fall into silence, the only backdrop the sound of sneakers squeaking across the recently waxed floor. Maybe I should go find something to do. I feel kind of bad sitting around when I_m getting paid, but really, I just don_t want to sit with Devin anymore. I stand up and turn back to him with a forced smile. _Well, I_d better be off._ He looks up at me, eyebrows scrunched. _Where are you going?_ _You know, gotta get to work. Get those assignments or whatever._ Devin blinks once and says, _I didn_t realize you_d be so eager._ _Gotta carry my weight,_ I say, just about to turn around and flee. Then Devin says, _Okay, if you say so. We_re cleaning out the rehearsal room._ I freeze. Did he just say _we?_ _Um, what?_ _I mean, it_s been used all year to prep for shows, but that_s where the younger kids will be__ _You_re sure that_s my assignment?_ I say, hoping he_ll say something like Oh, no, I was just babbling _cause I_m a fool! Go find your real assignment. Instead, he shrugs and says, _I mean, I_m your supervisor, so__ _You_re my what? You_re like twelve._ He laughs, standing up. And yeah, he_s taller than me, which I didn_t realize before. _I_m actually seventeen,_ he says, _but I_m part of the student board that hosts the camp. You ready?_ Of course I_m fucking not, but I nod anyway because now I know my paycheck lies in the palm of his hand. Becca, I_m seething, and it_s not even directed at you. Text me back, please. I need to RANT. Not Delivered Devin puts on some indie rock music as we sweep out the rehearsal hall. It_s a pretty small room, and it_s obviously made for dancers since there are ballet barres and boxes upon boxes of costumes. _It doesn_t really matter how we package everything up because they_re going to go through it all again later. Just tape up the boxes and we_ll move them out of the room._ I nod, reaching for the packaging tape and stuffing as many stray costume elements as possible into each box. It_s pretty menial work, so at least I don_t have to put in a whole lot of effort. It sucks being stuck in here when I_d rather be answering Diary messages. My inbox has never gotten so many messages a day, and frankly, I_m falling behind on answering them. It_s like everyone wants a special peek into my relationship, and while I acknowledge that this is the price of stardom, I_m really running out of energy to keep up. I maintain a steady internal chant of Please don_t talk to me. Please don_t talk to me. Devin sits down a few feet over and starts packing up boxes, and our work is pleasantly silent. Then he says, _You_re only in Denver for the summer, right?_ I just nod, keeping my face turned downward. _Have you had a chance to look around the city? There_s some cool stuff downtown and__ _I have a boyfriend,_ I say, and it crash-lands into the middle of the room like a goddamn UFO. Devin blinks once and says, _Congratulations?_ I shake my head, looking down before my cheeks can flush. _I just meant, he_s showing me around town. We_re making rounds._ _Oh, that_s good._ We fall into silence again, and I_m kind of relieved that I misread his small talk and he_s not actually trying to flirt with me. At least that_s one less thing to worry about. I_m half waiting for the rest of our team to show up and free me from captivity, but it looks like the crew is just Devin and me, which is basically everything I don_t want for the summer. He keeps making idle chitchat, and I do what I can to make it as obvious as possible that I don_t want to talk since I_m tired and stressed and not really a big fan of _work_ in general, but the guy can_t take a damn hint. And really, I don_t want to snap at him and tell him to fuck off since I know one bad word from him will mean jobless Noah all over again, but between all the pressure from the Diary and not being able to reach Becca and the fact that my phone hasn_t picked up a single signal since I got in, it_s getting harder and harder to avoid. My only hope at this point is that I can stick around long enough for Georgette to give me a second chance when I finally do lose my shit and get a bad report. Until then, I just have to keep my head low. Or, well, in this case, nod enough to make it seem like I_m actually listening to a word he says. Then I can distract myself with thoughts of Drew or the Diary and just pray for the day to be over. Step 6: The Hesitation The moment you realize things are escalating and think, _This is too much,_ only to strengthen the bond down the road. Inbox (937) Anonymous asked: Dear Noah, I love hearing about your relationship! I started following the Diary a year ago because it was amazing hearing about all these trans people finding love, but this honestly means so much more to me. It_s cool that trans people can find meet cutes, but long-lasting relationships like yours? It_s amazing! You_re a real icon, and I look up to you so much. Thank you for cultivating such a great relationship and letting us follow you through it. It means the world to so many of us. I don_t see Drew for the rest of the week. He tells me he has a lot of stuff to do at the shop, and then he_s supposed to be taking his brother to a concert or something, and there_s all this important stuff going on, but a part of me feels like he_s just avoiding me. I mean, how ridiculous was I the other night? And now he wants nothing to do with me because I turned him away. And frankly, after how eager he_s been to get involved with all the Diary stuff, it_s got me kind of freaked out. I was such a horrible date that he_s running scared, even more so than is natural for the Hesitation, and I don_t know what to do if he never wants to talk to me again. Friday_s the last day of orientation before the summer camp actually opens on Monday, so everyone_s bustling around and freaking out because there are so many things to get done. Devin and I basically finished setting everything up for the kids by Wednesday, so Friday morning, he brings in doughnuts and we just sit around doing nothing. I spend the day scrolling through the Diary fan messages I screenshotted that morning since I knew I_d be without service. They_re sweet and gushing, and it_s like the Diary took on a whole new life once everyone found out I was one of the meet cute stories_like I_d become not only some moderator, but a fairy godfather out to bestow love among all young trans people on the internet. It_s weird, but nice, and people treat me like I_m some sort of god. And my stomach twists, because if Drew breaks up with me, it_s not just me on the line. It_s the Meet Cute Diary too. I remind myself that I_m just stuck in the Hesitation phase longer than I should be. After this comes the Tether, the unbreakable bond formed between us that_ll make our relationship stronger than ever. I just have to stop getting distracted and focus on keeping us on track. So when Drew texts me after work on Friday asking if I want to do something cool for the Diary on Saturday morning, I ignore the voice in the back of my head saying but we were going to sleep in! and tell him I_m down for anything. He says he_ll be by at eight to get me, and I spend the next hour and a half picking out an outfit. This is the point where Becca would usually step in, but I haven_t really heard from her either, so I_m on my own. Saturday morning, Drew takes me to Red Rocks, which I_ve heard about in theory but never seen in real life. It_s this outrageous amphitheater carved out of the mountainous landscape, and supposedly the concerts there are the coolest thing ever because of the natural reverb. There_s no concert going on, but people seem to have gotten up early to start their exercise routines. People jog, some do yoga, and a couple of random tourists stand around taking pictures. _This is beautiful,_ I say, because it is, and I_m trying to get lost in it. It_s definitely a top ten make-all-my-friends-jealous-of-my-move-across-the-country photo location, but more importantly, I_m here with Drew. There_s a little bit of tension in the air between us, but I_m not sure how to get rid of it. It_s been a little while since we_ve seen each other, and I still don_t know why he was avoiding me, and then there_s this lingering thought hanging over my head after reading those Diary messages. If people really care more about my relationship with Drew than the meet cutes, the Diary won_t stand a chance if he ends our fake relationship. I take a step closer to him, but my hands are shaking and I accidentally bump into him. I jerk away, opting to cross my arms instead, but Drew doesn_t seem to notice. _Yeah, I thought we could start with yoga and then move on to weight sets._ I cringe but try to cover it up. I_m grateful he wanted to go out today at all, and the last thing I want to do is offend him by insulting his date plans. _Um, I_m not really into physical activity__ He laughs, draping an arm around my shoulders. _I_m kidding. I figured we could do a little photo shoot for the Diary._ My eyes widen at that, my heart speeding up, the tension shattering around us. I_ve never done a photo shoot, and honestly, there are barely any pictures of me anywhere because I_ve always been the only friend in the group who knows how to so much as hold a camera. But this place really is gorgeous, and the sun_s at just the right height, and I love the idea of doing some couple shots. And Drew_s flashing me a smile like maybe he completely forgot our relationship is fake and maybe he actually has feelings for me, and all the awkwardness from before was just in my head. Drew gives me a quick kiss on the cheek and starts motioning me toward the stage. _Let_s start here._ _Did you bring a camera?_ I ask. He chuckles. _We_ll just use my phone._ So we spend the next hour working out poses and taking pictures. He stops a random tourist and asks them to get a few shots of us together, and then we switch, me trying to figure out how to navigate a not-iPhone as he flexes and makes goofy faces at the camera. Once we_re done, I start scrolling through the pictures to find my favorites. The couple shots are really cute, and I send all of them to myself so I can use them for the Diary. My personal shots are a bit less impressive. The light_s off and my nose looks kind of big in most of them, like Drew didn_t actually look before shooting the shots, but at least the red rocks are mostly visible. I really can_t expect him to be good at everything. It_s actually kind of endearing that my photos suck, like he was so caught up in the moment of being with me he couldn_t focus on getting the shots right. _Okay, are you ready for part two?_ I look up at Drew, who_s smiling at me. _Part two?_ _Hell yeah,_ he says. _I_d never get you up this early if I only had one thing planned._ I pass his phone back to him, and he calls us a ride. I don_t actually know where we_re going until we step out of the car and Drew says, _As someone new to the city, you really have to take in the view._ _The view?_ _Yup. You_ll see what I mean once we get to the top. It_s a whole experience._ I look up at the road that seems to be snaking its way up the mountain. _Are we driving?_ Drew laughs, taking my hand and leading me toward a hiking trail. Oh hell no. _You really have to walk it if you want the full experience._ _But I_m in skinny jeans._ He laughs again. _You_ll be fine, Noah. Do it for the Diary. Don_t you think our fans will want to see pictures of us against the city skyline?_ And I sigh because as much as I hate walking or anything else that can be considered _exercise,_ and even though I_ve told him that I_m not much for outdoor activities, it could be a cute shot for the Diary, and I really can_t complain when he_s putting so much effort into keeping it afloat. But I think he overestimates me because maybe a half mile in, I already feel like my legs are being burned off. He starts talking about how it_s such a nice day out, and like, sure, you know, if you_re having a picnic or going to the beach. This is a whole new level of torture. I_m not sure how long it takes for us to get to the top, but literally everyone passes us_the white couple with a baby in one of those chest carriers, the group of teenagers lugging massive book bags, the young kid with his hundred-year-old grandmother. _I_m gonna have to get you out more often,_ Drew says when we reach the top, and I_m half a breath from keeling over and becoming one with the cement. I just smile and nod through my battle against my lungs as they struggle to get the fuck away from me. _Next time, might I suggest a hot spring?_ Drew laughs, but he_s already steering me toward the edge before I can catch my breath. I understand why he wanted to come here, though. The view really is spectacular_all of Denver, the mountains, it_s the real deal. But holy shit, there_re black spots in my vision, and I gasp, _Do you have water?_ He shakes his head. _We can get some after we go back down._ Back down? _Let_s get a picture,_ he says, pulling out his phone. _We can just do a selfie if you want._ I nod, but what I want is a gallon of water and my bed. And maybe a massage because my legs are going to be in pain for the next month. He drapes his arms around me and puts on the selfie cam, and I wince. I look like I_ve just gotten spat out of a tornado. He smiles. _Say cheese!_ _More like please, as in, please don_t take a picture of me looking like a mixed bride of Frankenstein._ Drew laughs again and snaps the picture. He slips his phone back into his pocket and says, _I think you look cute._ I roll my eyes. _No, you don_t. Literally no one thinks I look cute right now._ He smiles. _Relax, Noah. Not everything has to go on the Diary. It_s just to remember this day, you know?_ And I sigh because I kind of want to collapse from exhaustion, but a part of me feels like I should be grateful. Fake date or no, he planned out this whole day for us, and here I am complaining because leg day is literally never and I didn_t think to ask what to wear before I left the apartment this morning. But if he wants to remember this day even beyond posting for the Diary_s followers, that means he genuinely enjoys spending time with me, right? That it_s not all just staged? And maybe he_s right. I don_t have to post everything on the Diary even if that is the reason I put myself through this torture. What matters is that we_re building up our relationship according to the steps, and that_ll be important in the long run. _Do you want to head back, or do you wanna take in the view some more?_ he asks. _Let_s look some more._ There_s no way in hell I_ll survive the return trip if I don_t get a chance to catch my breath. I lean against him as we look out over the city skyline. He keeps his arm around me, and I_m grateful for it, both because it_s cute and because I_m pretty sure I_ll topple over without the support. Finally, I tell him I_m good, and we head back down the mountain. My throat_s on fire by the time a driver comes to take us to our next location, and I imagine I smell terrible. One thing I miss about the days I used to carry a purse is that I never have body spray on me anymore. What I wouldn_t give for a free shower or even a little Febreze. _I_m taking you to lunch,_ Drew says, and I smile because I could use the fuel and the water, which I still haven_t had. When we step out of the car, I_m wobbly on my feet. Drew steers me toward the restaurant, and we sit out on a little patio where I_m finally able to collapse and down two glasses of water. _You okay?_ he asks. I nod, but I feel like my whole life is on fire. I_m going home after this date to collapse for three years and never leave my closet again. He smiles, placing a hand over mine. _I probably should_ve warned you about the hike._ I laugh, brushing some sweat off my face. _It_s fine._ _Yeah, I can see that._ I blush, turning my face away. _Sorry._ _We can save the outdoor dates for after we get you in shape,_ he says. _Honestly, I just got really excited since I haven_t seen you all week. I mean, excited to work on updates for the Diary, of course. Can_t say I didn_t miss all the attention._ I look up at that, my mouth gaping. _Wait, really? I thought you were avoiding me._ _I told you I was busy._ _I know, but I thought you were just doing that thing where people say they_re busy because they_re too nice to say they don_t want to see you._ He laughs, and it sounds lovely, and I feel all the hesitation wash away from me. Why did I backpedal? Why did I forget how lucky I am to have found Drew? _I definitely wanted to see you,_ he says. _Things have just been kind of rough at home._ _How so?_ I ask, my voice low. I don_t want him to feel like he has to answer, but if he wants to, I want him to. He gives me a soft smile and says, _My parents are getting divorced. It_s not a big deal for me, but my brother_s nine, and he_s taking it really hard. I_ve been trying to keep his spirits up, you know?_ _I totally get it,_ I say. _Let me know if I can help at all. Maybe we can take him to the movies or something._ _I think he_d love that. Thank you._ And I want to reach across the table to kiss him, but I know there are people around who_ll probably give us the side-eye, and really, I probably taste like sweat, which is gross. I just lean back in my seat to look at the menu. It_s fine. I can be patient. I see plenty of time for kissing in our future. Becca Hey, sorry, shit_s been off the rail. Call me? After I get home, I take a shower and take a long-ass nap. I wake up just after five to a text message from Becca saying she_s finally ready to talk. So I FaceTime her, and she_s sitting on her bed with her Yorkie, Noodles. _Hey, stranger,_ she says. I roll my eyes. _What_s going on? I haven_t heard from you in forever._ She sighs, patting Noodles on the head once before setting him down. He seems to understand that FaceTime means no Noodles time, because he gives a little grunt before jumping off the bed. _You know, there_s school, and . . ._ She trails off. _Well, I started talking to this girl._ I squeal, and she rolls her eyes. _No, really, who is she? Tell me!_ Becca sighs again and says, _I_ll tell you everything, but don_t get mad, okay?_ I raise an eyebrow. _Why would I be mad?_ _It_s Gina Paris._ I freeze, my lip curling just a little bit. So, Gina Paris is this girl from our_well, Becca_s_school, and she_s the cute, perky type with luscious flowing hair and a TV-star smile. Kinda reminds me of Maggie, minus the palate for _exotic_ cuisine. Anyway, the problem is she_s also part of this group called Forward Thinkers on campus that_s all about feminism and women_s rights, which, by their definition, only includes cis women. _Why are you talking to Gina Paris? Getting the homework?_ Becca rolls her eyes. _I knew you_d get mad._ _Of course I_m mad!_ I say. _You_re flirting with a TERF!_ _She_s not a TERF!_ Becca says. _Really, she_s not. I_ve spoken to her about it. She supports trans women. She just can_t get the rest of the group on board._ _Yeah, I_m sure. Super convenient._ Becca groans. _Whatever. Look, the point is, we aren_t talking anymore, okay? It didn_t work out, and I_ve just been really over it._ We fall quiet, and I don_t really know what to say. I mean, I_m sorry is usually the expected response, but I_m not, really. I want Becca to be happy, but she can be happy with someone who isn_t a TERF. That seems like the obvious answer. _Drew took me on an interesting date today,_ I say. Becca looks at me like she_s about to hang up. Then she says, _Where_d he take you?_ So I recount everything she missed, finally ending with all the stuff from earlier from Red Rocks to my near blackout over lunch. Finally, Becca says, _So are you guys a thing yet?_ _We_re not not a thing._ Becca scoffs, but there might be a little bit of a smirk on her face, like she_s just a little bit happy that she_s not the only one who_s still single. So I almost feel bad saying, _Things are going great,_ because I know it must feel shitty knowing that I_m building an amazing relationship when hers didn_t work out. But I also hope she_ll at least be happy for me, and maybe some of that happiness will help her forget about Gina Paris forever. _I mean, we_re technically still fake boyfriends, but he_s definitely into me. We_ve worked past the Hesitation and are well into the Tether, and then I_m sure we_ll finalize everything._ Becca rolls her eyes, but it_s a better gesture than hanging up. _Yeah, okay. Don_t you think these categories are a little ridiculous?_ _No, not at all,_ I say, and really, they_re great. Not only are they the perfect rubric for the Diary, but they_re all working, like I was gifted some divine inspiration as I jotted them down. It_s the perfect way for me to guide us into a secure, lasting relationship. _Don_t you think it_s kind of exploitative to try to trick him into falling in love with you using his love of the Diary?_ Which, wow, okay, rude. It_s not like I found some random guy off the street and told him he had to fall in love with me. The Diary is me. It_s all of my inner desires and hopes and dreams. Drew was the one who suggested the fake date in the first place, and if he really didn_t want to go along with it, he could stop at any time. And I know I_m glaring as I say, _Believe me, Drew_s into me. I_m not exploiting anything, just helping him see more clearly._ _I think you just need to make sure you_re actually into him, not just using him to mark off checkpoints on your pegboard._ _What is that even supposed to mean?_ I snap. _It means there_s a difference between being into someone because you think they_re right for you and being into someone because you know they_re wrong for you and you would rather set yourself up for failure than have to face the work of a real relationship. And frankly, none of your Diary _romances_ have ever felt like anything you really wanted to commit to, and Drew is no different._ A heavy silence hangs between us as I fight down the urge to say something I_ll regret. _I_m into him,_ I say, but quite frankly, I_m about done with this conversation. I know things aren_t going great for Becca right now, but I didn_t think she_d take it out on me. _Then I_m happy for you,_ she says, but she really doesn_t sound happy at all. She sounds jealous, and maybe just a little bit vindictive, like she won_t be satisfied until she knows I_m miserable too. Step 7: The Tether It_s the moment where you form a connection that_s impossible to break, the moment that changes you forever. Inbox (1,047) Anonymous asked: Hey, Noah! I noticed you haven_t really been answering messages like you used to. You_re probably busy having the cutest relationship ever with Drew! When you get the chance, can you update us on how things are going and maybe post some more couple pictures? Thanks! By the time I get to work on Monday, the place is already swarming with kids and their parents. It looks like they_re all lining up to get signed in and take their safety pamphlets or whatever. I mostly just slept all weekend because I was bone tired, and as predicted, literally everything hurts. Even now, I_m half hobbling my way toward the rec center because every step feels like death, and my usual posture feels like a miserable contortion. The good news was that Drew_s death trap of a date got a lot of traction, and people spent all weekend congratulating me and raving about how great I am. _On your left._ I nearly jump out of my skin as I whirl around to find Devin walking up behind me. _What the fuck, man?_ I ask. He shrugs. _I was just warning you I was here._ God, I hate when people sneak up on me. He_s got another coffee holder, two Grande Starbucks cups in it. He pulls one out and passes it to me. _Vanilla latte._ I shake my head. _I don_t need you buying me coffee,_ I say, which is true because not only does it feel exploitative to let him drop five bucks on coffee for me every morning, but if I_m going to make this thing with Drew a real thing, it feels weird letting another guy buy me coffee. _I have a buy-one-get-one special,_ he says. _Just take it._ Which, I mean, if it_s free . . . I grab the cup and sip from it, the warmth and sweetness washing over me. It takes all my strength to not vocally moan as we make our way into the rec center, Devin holding the door open for me. _Hope you_re excited,_ he says. _Today_s the day everything happens!_ _You mean, the day we get to start babysitting?_ He laughs, but I really wasn_t joking. _I know you_re only here because you need to get paid, but the kids are really sweet. I think you_ll like them._ Probably not, considering I hate kids, but I nod anyway because I don_t want him to report me. The rec center_s way busier than I_ve seen it. It looks like some of the onslaught of kids and parents have spilled over into here, but the kids look smaller, or maybe their parents are just taller than the parents outside. . . . _We should greet some of the parents,_ Devin says, but his voice wavers and he looks a little green. I take a step away from him to avoid a repeat of last week. _Why?_ _Because they_ll want to meet the people overseeing their kids._ I sigh because I just know he_s gonna drag me over there against my will and make me mingle. He takes another sip of his coffee and sighs, squeezing his shaking hands into fists. _Okay, let_s do this._ Devin ushers me forward so we can introduce ourselves to the parents slowly filling the rec center, and his voice quivers with every line he lets out. I hold back my urge to warn the parents to stand clear a few feet, and we make our rounds, talking about how _excited_ we are to get to know their little brats. Finally, we clear most of the crowd. Everyone seems to be heading toward the bleachers, and Devin steers me out of the rec center and toward the rehearsal hall. _The parents are going to sit through a quick orientation, then we get the kids. During the day camps, we have kids ages four through seven. Only the eight- to thirteen-year-olds do the sleepaway camps._ I know the camp runs in weekly cycles, so all the kids here today will be gone by next Monday, but it still sounds exhausting. I never realized I_d feel so fortunate to have never gone to summer camp. _I_m not doing the sleepaway camps,_ I say. Devin smiles. _I know, but you might want to consider it later in the summer. It_s the best part of camp._ I roll my eyes. By the time the kids run into the rehearsal hall, big goofy grins on their faces, I_m working through the last of my coffee energy and ready to go home. Devin whistles to call them to attention_nearly scaring me out of my skin in the process_and then he has them all sit in a big circle so they can say their names and talk about things they like. _I_ll start,_ Devin says, his grin as big as the slobbering toddlers_. _I_m Devin! My pronouns are he/him, and I love Disney movies. Anyone seen Coco?_ And the whole room erupts as the kids start screaming about their favorite Disney movies or just screaming unintelligibly. Devin whistles again, and they all stop like flies caught in a trap. I wonder if they come programmed like that or if they gave them something during orientation. _Awesome!_ Devin says. He turns to me and says, _Your turn!_ I blink back at him because this is the most humiliating thing I_ve done since I got cast as the Thanksgiving Turkey in a damn preschool play. I sigh and say, _I_m Noah. My pronouns are he/him, and I like anime?_ And I_m pretty sure none of these kids even know what an anime is, but they erupt again, like it_s the damn coolest thing they_ve ever heard, and actually, it does feel kind of nice. Like having your own little cheer squad who applauds you for doing nothing in particular. Devin whistles again, and he motions to the little girl sitting next to me. She_s a dark girl, her hair tied up in little braids with these cute pink bows in them. She smiles wide and says, _I_m Bailey. I pronounce she, and Moana!_ And the kids lose it all over again. I turn to Devin, who honestly looks like he_s fallen into the greatest state of euphoria, and I can_t help but laugh because wow, these kids don_t even know what we_re talking about but they sure are having fun. I wonder if I was ever like that. I doubt it. It takes us a half hour to make it around the circle, and by the time we do, half the kids are playing with their shoes or crawling on the floor. Devin rolls out an old TV and an even older DVD player and plops a little disc inside. He calls the kids to attention, and gets them to gather together in front of the screen before pressing play. Then he dims the lights and sits down next to me at the back of the room. I_m not really sure what movie he chose, but there_s a bunch of Disney ads, so I guess that settles that. I drop my voice low and say, _This is a zoo._ He smiles. _You just have to keep them entertained. All they want is to have some fun._ We lapse into silence as the movie starts. Then I turn my head and say, _Why_d you start by introducing your pronouns? Kids don_t even know what that means._ _Maybe not, but they_re going to hear about that stuff somewhere, so why not start now? I can open them up to it here, or I can wait for someone else to teach them wrong._ I raise an eyebrow. _You don_t strike me as a trans rights activist._ Devin chuckles. _I_m nonbinary._ _Wait, really?_ He shrugs. _Don_t tell me you actually thought I was cis._ A kid at the back of the group turns around, puts a finger to his lips, and makes a loud shushing sound at Devin. Devin puts his hands up in surrender and makes a motion of zipping his lips. I roll my eyes, but it is kind of sweet how well Devin seems to get along with these kids. I_d never have the patience for it, but I wonder if there_s one little trans kid in the group who_ll find that much more confidence in coming out for having known Devin. Hell, if some trans girl I never knew personally could inspire me to embrace myself in high school, I imagine Devin opening these kids up to pronouns now will make all the difference. Imagine knowing that being trans isn_t just a thing, but a thing you_re actually allowed to do. I wonder if I would_ve found myself sooner. And maybe this is part of finding myself now. Maybe this is Fate_s way of helping me find a kid just like myself and give them something I never had. And maybe it doesn_t mean anything at all, but I still can_t help but smile. We only keep the kids until one. Then two more counselors take them out to spend a few hours outdoors until their parents pick them up. Devin looks almost wistful watching them go, and then he tells me to start cleaning up. On top of just picking up all the scattered crayons and DVDs, we also have to mop the floors to clean up any bodily fluids the kids left behind. Really, the day_s firmly convinced me that kids are disgusting, and I_d rather cut my own uterus out by hand than ever birth one, but at least it_s basically over and I_m getting paid. Devin puts on this playlist, and I don_t know if it_s intentionally gay_Halsey, Hayley Kiyoko, Troye Sivan_or if that just happens when you_re queer and really dig your indie pop. _Did you have fun today?_ he asks. He_s pulled out some spray cleaner to wipe down all the windows and mirrors. I shrug. _I don_t know if _fun_ is the right word for it, but it wasn_t too terrible._ He laughs. _When I first started working at the camp, it was pretty stressful, but it gets better. You kinda realize that they_re kids, which means as rambunctious and uncontrollable as they can be, they_ll also give you way more wiggle room than any adult._ He_s probably right about that, even if he had to use some weird SAT word to explain it. I can_t say I did anything particularly well today, but the kids seemed to like me well enough. One little girl even brought me a drawing of a heart and said, _I love you, Mr. Noah,_ which was really fucking cute. _How long have you worked at the camp?_ I ask. _This is my second year,_ Devin says. _I haven_t lived in Denver that long, but if I had, I probably would_ve been here longer._ It_s kind of nauseating how in love he is with the camp and the kids and all that jazz, but I_m trying to give him a pass. I still can_t quite say Devin_s my cup of tea_between the weird whistling and head bobbing while he cleans and the overbearing smiling, he_s just way to peppy for my taste_but something about him coming out to me made me like him a little bit more. Like maybe we aren_t total opposites, and I could stand to be a little nicer to him. I swipe my mop across the floor. _Where_d you move from?_ _Florida_Satan_s ball sack._ I laugh because we used to call it that too. It_s the little phallus hanging off the edge of the US. _I_m from Florida too,_ I say. _Which county?_ _Dade, you?_ I freeze, my mop stopping mid-swipe. _Same._ He smiles. _Small world._ He_s definitely right about that. _Why_d you leave?_ The room falls quiet after that, the sound of Troye Sivan muffled in the background, and I wonder if I overstepped. Really, it doesn_t matter that much. I_m mostly just making small talk, but it kind of feels like I asked him about his dead grandmother or something. Finally, he says, _I came out at school, and people didn_t take it very well._ I freeze, my hands gripping the handle of the mop until I_m almost positive I_ll get splinters. _Because you came out as nonbinary?_ He laughs, but it sounds hollow. _Actually, I thought I was a trans girl. They weren_t really cool about that._ And suddenly something clicks in me and the mop falls from my hands, the wood colliding with the floor in a hollow crack. Devin stares at me, eyebrows raised. _Are you okay?_ _You went to St. Francis?_ I ask, my voice soft. And Devin_s eyes widen. _How did you know that?_ _Because I was a grade below you,_ I say. _I remember when you came out. It was all over the school._ And Devin blushes, which is probably fair since I just put him on the spot like that. He turns his face away from me, but since he_s wiping down a mirror, it doesn_t do much. _Yeah, I_it was a mistake._ _A mistake?_ _I mean, I thought I was a girl back then, and I guess a part of me thought that if I came out, things would be easier. Instead, I just got bullied to shit, and now I don_t even really know what I am, you know?_ I shake my head because hearing him say it was a mistake makes me inexplicably angry. I mean, I never really knew him at school, but the story of the one trans girl brave enough to actually live her truth at St. Francis? That shit kept me going. It was the reason I had the courage to look into transness in the first place. It was the reason I stayed up for hours, finding the right words, looking into transitioning. It was the reason I finally had the confidence to tell Becca and Brian who I really am, to make the Diary. It_s why Noah exists at all. And Devin_s saying it was all a mistake? _It wasn_t a mistake,_ I say. He looks up at me then, his wide eyes meeting mine through the mirror. _I thought you were the bravest person at St. Francis. Hell, in the whole goddamn country. I only came out because I had you as a model. Don_t you dare call it a mistake._ He blushes, his voice soft as he says, _Thank you._ I roll my eyes. _For what?_ _For saying that._ We lapse into silence for a moment, and I struggle to focus on my mop strokes instead of the awkward tension hanging in the air. Finally, Devin says, _I thought I was a fool, you know? For ever thinking I was trans in the first place. I just felt like a liar and an embarrassment and a shame to real trans people._ I raise an eyebrow. _Why?_ He shrugs. __Cause after I came out and we moved out here, I didn_t feel like a girl anymore. At least, not really._ _Do you feel like one now?_ He shrugs again. _I don_t know. I mean, I don_t really feel like a boy. I almost never do, but I don_t know if what I_m feeling is dysphoria or just__ He stops, and I want to tell him that I understand. I mean, not fully, because I_m a boy, and I know I_m a boy, but that doesn_t mean figuring it out wasn_t hard. There were moments when I thought maybe I was just being dramatic, maybe I was just a tomboy who didn_t like wearing dresses. I didn_t have to be a boy, right? Except that I am. I set the mop down and sit down on the floor. We aren_t particularly close, but something about being eye level with him seems better right now. I say, _There were rumors about what happened after you came out. Are they true?_ He stops scrubbing the mirror and turns back to me. _Which ones?_ _The ones that said you tried to kill yourself?_ He sighs, but I don_t really need him to keep talking. Hell, that sigh alone weighs a couple thousand pounds, and I feel like I can see the entire weight of his high school misery reflected in his eyes. Finally, he says, _Yeah, I did. That_s why my parents pulled me out of school and why we moved across the country. They thought getting away would make me better._ _Did it?_ He laughs, but he doesn_t answer. I_m not really sure what I was expecting from the conversation, but it_s pretty clear to me that it_s over. I pick up the mop again, and start scrubbing the floors harder than I should. I think part of me is hoping I can erase more than just germs and dirt stains, like maybe the past can be washed away just as easily. Hey, Becca, I really need to talk to you. Please call me when you get a chance. Delivered On the way home from work, Drew texts me asking if I wanna go to the movies, and of course, I say yes. We usually meet at Brian_s apartment before every date because Drew says it_s a better setup for the Diary stories since there are no parents around, but he says he_s bringing his brother this time and asks me to meet him at their place. I agree, copying and pasting the address into the rideshare app. Drew_s house kind of blows my mind because it_s not at all what I_d expect. There_s a massive, mud-covered truck in the driveway and three American flags in the lawn, and there_s a doormat that says, Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again. Like, I realized he was white, but I never thought his house would be that white. I_m absolutely certain I got the address right, but I_m still a bit apprehensive as I knock on the front door. Then it swings open almost immediately, and Drew_s standing there with the most stressed-out look on his face, which melts away just a little when he catches sight of me. Aw. _Hey,_ he says, but it sounds like it_s riding a sigh. _Let me just get my brother and then we can go._ I expect him to invite me inside, but he doesn_t, simply slipping back in and closing the door with me still standing on the porch. A minute later, the door opens again, and he comes out, a nine-year-old version of him following behind. _Noah, this is Jordan. Jordan, this is my boyfriend, Noah._ Despite it being all an act, the words flow casually off Drew_s tongue like he_s really falling into the motions, and I can_t help but smile. _Hi,_ Jordan says, but he doesn_t seem very enthusiastic about it. Actually, after spending the day with the kids at camp, this kid seems just about dead. Drew calls our ride, and we all shuffle into the back seat. _You have an interesting house,_ I say. Drew winced. _Ugh, yeah. My dad_s just kind of like that._ And suddenly I_m a little relieved he didn_t invite me inside. _Do you guys, like . . . kiss and stuff?_ Jordan asks. Drew shoves his shoulder, a look of mortification on his face. _I told you not to say shit like that. What the hell?_ _It_s just a question._ _It_s fine,_ I say, and really, after camp, I don_t think there_s a whole lot any kid could say to catch me off guard. We sit in silence until we finally get out at the theater, and Jordan rushes ahead to get into the ticket line, and I can_t help but feel like Devin would know exactly what to say. Hell, he_d have Jordan swinging off his arm in an hour, and they_d be getting matching tattoos by the end of the night. _I_m sorry about that,_ Drew says as we make our way to the line. _It_s fine,_ I say. _I just wish I was better with kids._ He smiles. _You_re perfect. Really. I told Jordan you offered to go to the movies with him, and he was thrilled. He_s just shit at showing it to you._ That_s both kind of a relief and extremely nerve-racking. God, what if I disappoint him? That could have a terrible effect on my fake-but-soon-to-be-real relationship. _Anyway,_ Drew says, _things were getting super messy, so thanks for busting us out of there._ _Your parents?_ I ask. Drew shrugs, but it_s pretty obvious that means yes. _I think they used to pretend to like each other for Jordan_s sake, but they_ve basically all but given up on that. Now it_s just a battleground, and they don_t give a damn who the casualties are._ _I_m really sorry,_ I say, and I am. My parents have always gotten along well, and there_s never been a time when I doubted that they loved each other or me. I can_t imagine living any other way. _It_s fine,_ he says. _I just really wanted to be with you. Things feel a lot better when you_re around, and focusing on the Diary has been a real lifeline for me lately._ I smile. There_s a pressure in my chest, squeezing my heart and my lungs, twining through my nerve endings, like this is the Tether_the moment that binds us together forever. _Hurry up!_ Jordan screams. And Drew shoots back, _Calm down! The movie doesn_t start for an hour!_ I laugh, interlacing my fingers with his. _It_s fine. We can get a couples_ popcorn or maybe an Icee?_ He smiles. _Okay, but we have to make this look legit, so we_re only getting one straw._ Monday, June 11 MeetCuteDiary posted: Hey, everyone! Sorry I_ve been kind of MIA. Drew and I have been spending a lot of time together, and we just went on the world_s cutest movie date. Thanks for all your support, and I_ll get to your messages soon! Oh, and here are some photos! Babbyabby12 replied: Ahh! This is adorable! So happy for you guys! Mysticmayhem replied: No worries! We understand! You guys are like soul mates! Krismaastime replied: Thanks for sharing these! So cute! Load more comments . . . Despite Brian_s badgering, I don_t get home at a reasonable time, and when I do get home, I stay up late updating the Diary with pictures from the movie. I want to make sure the Tether is really laid out for my followers so they realize how legit Drew and I are becoming. Unsurprisingly, the next morning, Brian has to literally drag me out of bed and deposit me on the floor until I finally groan and stand up long enough to change. I_m more relieved than I can put into words when I run into Devin carrying two more cups of coffee. _You still have coupons?_ I ask. Devin rolls his eyes. _It_s a special, not a coupon._ _Whatever. I hope it lasts all summer._ Devin smiles as he hands me the cup, and I toss it back, quickly scalding my mouth but also waking up. And as the energy floods through me, I think about yesterday_about the movie with Drew and how it was the steel coating over our bond. And then I think about Devin, and the way we left things. He doesn_t seem bothered at all, but as we hit the rehearsal hall, I say, _Sorry about yesterday._ He turns to me, head cocked to the side. _What about yesterday?_ _Things got a little awkward near the end,_ I say. _I obviously talk too much._ He smiles, and it really lights up his face and brings out his blue eyes. _You were fine. I just_well, I got a little caught up in my head, I guess._ I don_t ask him about the rest because it seems kind of unfair. Instead, we go about setting up for the kids, and sure enough, fifteen minutes later, they_re racing into the room like a herd of cows ready for grazing. Actually, I don_t know if cows are fast. I_ve never really interacted with a cow. Devin gets all the kids as organized as possible, then starts handing out the craft supplies. They eat it up, screaming and shrieking and laughing as they get their paper and start drawing nonsensical shapes detailing their _perfect summer_ on it. _They_ve got some real talent,_ I say sarcastically, and Devin laughs. He hands me a sheet of paper and a notepad to rest it on, and we share a box of colored pencils between us. _Who sets the curriculum?_ I ask. He smiles. _Not me. Otherwise we_d be doing some slow jams and a dance contest._ I roll my eyes. _I wouldn_t want to see that._ He laughs again. I don_t even know what I_m going to draw until I find myself sketching out a horrible rendition of the bookstore. There_s a rectangle for the little counter and a bunch of smaller squares for the stacks of books lining the floor that I really hope Drew has managed to pick up by now. Another, longer rectangle for the back door and then some weird polygon that_s supposed to resemble the cash register. _What_s that?_ Devin asks, and I quickly cover my paper with my hand. _Rude. No peeking._ Devin chuckles, returning to his own little nature display on his sheet. Little mountains, a field of flowers, a wide-sweeping river. I_m kind of mad because it_s actually pretty good, like he_s drawing from reference or something. _I didn_t know you could draw,_ I say. He smiles, adding a layer of shading to the sweeping waves of his river. _Well, you don_t really know anything about me, do you?_ And actually, he_s right about that. I mean, I know he_s trans_nonbinary, but no idea where he falls on the spectrum. He_s from Miami, we used to go to the same school, but other than that, I can_t really say a whole lot. Hell, I don_t even know what his last name is. _So, what are you working on?_ he asks again. I sigh. _It_s the bookstore where I met my boyfriend,_ I say. _Was that this summer?_ he asks. And honestly, it sounds like an accusation. You_re that attached to a guy you_ve known a few weeks? But Devin_s voice is soft and bright and his eyes are about as nonjudgmental as blue eyes can ever really be. He_s probably just curious, and it_s only my insecurity that makes me feel like he_s casting judgment down on me. _Yeah, it was this summer,_ I say. The sound of our colored pencils fills the ensuing silence between us. Once the kids get bored, we play heads up, seven up, and four corners, then sit them all down to watch another movie. I don_t know how many DVDs Devin_s got stockpiled, but we_re burning through them pretty fast. Then lunch comes around, and all the kids rush to get their little sandwiches and Rice Krispies out of their little lunch boxes, and Devin taps me on the shoulder and says, _Can you watch them for a bit? I_m going to the bathroom._ I nod because what else am I supposed to say? No, jackass, go piss on the floor? But really, I don_t want him to go. There are two scheduled bathroom breaks a day for the kids, so I never actually expected to be left alone with all of them. It_s like overseeing a rabid dog and deciding to take it off its leash. He_s all I_ve got keeping these kids in line. I try to focus on getting through the moment. It_s just lunch, which I soon learn is a lot harder than it sounds. Over the course of twenty minutes, one kid sticks his sandwich in his pants, one smears applesauce on the mirror, and one just starts crying for no discernible reason. The other seven manage to stay alive, though I guess I_m a little too caught up to notice if they_re actually eating their lunch or just painting their faces with it. I_m trying to pull applesauce kid away from the mirror and stop him from touching anything else when one of the coordinators comes in to take them to their afternoon activities. She rolls her eyes at me, which, okay, I know I_m bad with kids. And then she rounds them all up and they rush out happily like I_m the one misbehaving. My hands are sticky, and Devin_s still not back yet, which, come on, who takes a half hour in the fucking bathroom? So I head over to wash my hands and see what kind of casual midday vacation Devin_s decided to take for himself. When I reach the men_s bathroom, it looks pretty empty. I make my way to the sink and turn the water on, scrubbing the appley remains from my skin. The bathroom_s actually really clean for a summer camp, and I_m slightly amazed. It_s not a bad place to run if I need to escape the kid swarm. And then I turn the faucet off and pull some paper towels from the nearest dispenser. As I toss them in the trash, I make out a soft, gasping sound that I first thought was the AC but soon realize is another person in the bathroom. There are only two stalls, and the doors for both of them are closed, but I don_t see any feet underneath. _Hello?_ I say, and yeah, it_s probably a ghost, which makes me the soon-to-die white woman in this situation. I_m about to bolt from the bathroom before Satan_s wrath can be brought down on me when one of the stall doors opens up and Devin steps out. _Where the hell have you been?_ I ask. _I had to deal with those little demons alone._ _Sorry,_ he says, but it comes out on a little puff of air, and it_s only then that I realize how pale he looks. _Are you okay?_ I ask. And he nods, but let_s be real, he_s pretty clearly not okay. He kind of hobbles out of the stall and leans on the counter, but his arms are shaking even as he holds himself up. My first thought is that maybe he has a fever, but when I touch his arm, he feels more cold than he does hot. He doesn_t jerk away from me, but lets me guide him down to a sitting position on the bathroom floor, and for a moment, I_m not even worried about how dirty the place would probably look if I had a UV light and how gross my pants will probably be when I stand up. His breathing comes out in short, ragged breaths, and I wonder if maybe he has asthma or if he_s having an allergic reaction to someone_s peanut butter sandwich, but other than the sharp inhales and the sweat along his forehead, there doesn_t seem to be anything else wrong with him_no hives, no swollen lips, no purpling face as he takes his last breath. So I_m basically left with two options_I can go get help, or I can just sit with him and hope he gets better. I_m about to stand and go call for a coordinator, but there_s something in his eyes that looks like fear, and I don_t know if that_s something he wants to keep to himself. Hell, if he wanted me to get help, he would_ve said something when I asked if he was okay, right? _Devin,_ I say, my voice low. _I want to help you, but you have to tell me what to do._ He laughs, but it comes out more like a cough. _Sorry,_ he says. _I_m okay._ _You don_t look okay._ He takes my hand in his, his palms clammy, and he just sits there staring at it like it_s some manual on how to breathe Earth air. And I just sit there because I don_t know what else to do. Pulling away from him and going to get help sounds like a shitty thing to do, and I don_t even know the Heimlich maneuver, so I just kind of feel like a worthless sack of potatoes. Finally, his breathing starts to even out and he lets go of my hand, wiping tears out of his eyes. _Are you okay?_ I ask. He nods, but it_s not really that reassuring since he_s been saying he was okay the whole time. He clears his throat and spares me a small smile. _Sorry about that._ _It_s okay,_ I say. His voice is still a little bit shaky, but he looks mostly okay, so I stand up and hold my hand out to him, and he takes it, pulling himself to his feet. _What happened?_ He shrugs. _Panic attack._ And I_ve heard of panic attacks before, but I_ve never seen one in action. They were just supposed to be in someone_s head. I hadn_t thought they_d feel so scary. _Did something_did something get to you?_ I ask, but it sounds off even to my own ears. I_m trying to be suave about it. No awkward I don_t know how to handle mentally ill people jargon, but I also have no idea what I_m doing. He smiles and says, _No, not really. Sometimes they just happen, but I_m okay._ And I know the respectful thing to do is say that I totally get it and tell him he can talk to me if he needs anything and then walk away, but I kind of just stare at him for a moment because I_m not really sure what to say. Or, well, how to say it. And I feel like shit about it, but my body_s not really listening to me. Devin walks to the bathroom door, but then he pauses, turning back to look at me, and I_m half expecting him to call me out on my staring. Then he says, _This is gonna sound weird, but do you mind doing me a favor?_ And I nod, because it_s not like there_s another appropriate response. He stares down at his shoes for a moment, then says, _I_ve been thinking about my pronouns, and I kind of want to try out some new ones._ _Like she/her?_ I ask. He shrugs. _Maybe not those either. I don_t know. I was thinking about using something more neutral._ He pauses, his eyes roving the floor again like the perfect pronoun is just waiting in the grout. _I don_t want to make things too complicated, though. I just_I_m not sure how comfortable I feel with he/him anymore._ _Devin, they_re your pronouns. You don_t have to consider anyone else before you pick them._ His eyes widen, and then I don_t know what changes, but he smiles like all his problems have melted away, and it really is a beautiful smile. _Thanks, Noah. Do you mind using they/them for me from now on?_ I roll my eyes. _No, I don_t mind. They_re your pronouns._ And they smile again, and for a moment, my heart feels heavy. Then they say, _I hope things weren_t too bad while I was gone._ And the smell of applesauce washes over me, and my whole body tightens up. I groan, pushing past them to head back down the hall. _We_re gonna be cleaning up all afternoon._ Seriously, Becca, I know you_re busy, but come on! What about our spa date??? Delivered On the way home, Brian stops to pick up Maggie from some friend_s house or something. I haven_t seen them together as much recently, but if that was supposed to give me any hope they_d be breaking up soon, it_s completely crushed the moment Brian hops out of the car and runs to hug her. Gross. Brian kicks me out of the passenger seat so Maggie can hop in up front, and I just roll my eyes before slipping into the back. It_s fine. I_m trying to pretend to be invisible instead of being their third wheel. I_ve noticed that Maggie hasn_t invited me to anything since trivia, and I don_t know if that_s a reflection on how badly we lost or the fact that I didn_t get the bookstore job and, by extension, her discount. Brian claims she just hasn_t been doing anything Noah-worthy recently, but then, he_s also been more Maggie-fixated than before. It_s like every recipe he tries just further convinces him he needs to be the perfect chef of Maggie_s dreams, which is also gross. Maggie goes on about watching this gay movie because she has a gay friend, and my eyes roll back into my head at the absurdity. I mean, really, who acts like they know something about being gay just because they have a gay friend? And Brian laughs along like she_s the single funniest person he_s ever met, and I_m going to have to wash my ears out with soap. He never would_ve thought her jokes were funny before. Hell, a year ago, we_d both be making fun of how ridiculous she sounds, and yet I_m strapped down for fifteen minutes of utter torture before we finally get home. When Brian unlocks the door to the apartment, I beeline for my closet. He shouts something about dinner after me, but I just ignore him as I close the door. This is the part where I call Becca just to get some voicemail box is full message, and before I can even think about my next move, I_m calling Drew. I tell him about work and he talks about his brother, and really, neither of us is saying much of anything important, but it doesn_t matter. Somehow, I feel like he knows exactly what I need. Drew gets off work just after five, so he swings by the apartment so we can get some more photos for the Diary. I don_t bother telling Brian I_m heading downstairs since he and Maggie are so caught up in each other, they won_t even notice I_m gone. Drew sits out on the curb, his phone in his hands and his eyes glued to it. And really, there_s a lot to admire_the arch of his back, the way his dark hair reflects the sunlight, the perfect line of his jaw. He turns, his eyes widening as they catch on me. _Oh, hey._ _Hey,_ I say, sitting down on the curb next to him. _Everything good?_ he asks. I shrug. _Besides having to take care of Devin? Yeah, it_s fine, I guess._ Drew raises an eyebrow. _Isn_t that the coworker who threw up on you? I thought you hated him._ _Devin uses they/them pronouns,_ I say. _And I don_t know. I guess they_re not so bad. How_re things with you?_ He stares down at the ground. _Work_s a pain in the ass. We_re getting ready for an author event, so we have to keep track of all their books like someone_s actually gonna show up to buy them._ I raise an eyebrow. _You don_t think they will?_ _Please, these authors might as well write fan fiction. Their work is garbage._ That_s a little harsh considering my work isn_t exactly _literary,_ but I know he doesn_t actually mean me. I_m just being insecure because my meet cute stories have been too flat to post lately, like I can_t find inspiration now that I can_t just hit on any guy I come in contact with, and more than anything, I want to be cuddled up with him even though he_s only here so we can take some selfies. _Anyway,_ Drew says as if exactly on cue, _let_s get these shots done so I can get home. I_ve got a date tonight._ I freeze, my blood running cold. _A_a date?_ He laughs, clapping a hand against my shoulder. _Not that kind of date. I wouldn_t betray the Diary like that. Those comments are like the only way I get serotonin anymore._ Which makes me feel both better and worse at the same time. He stands up, a holding out a hand for me. _Some buddies are coming over for a D and D campaign, you know._ Which, frankly, I know nothing about DandD, but that sounds a hell of a lot better than the idea of Drew wrapped up in somebody else. I push the thought out of my head, reminding myself that we aren_t actually dating and his loyalty to me is really all about the Diary anyway, but a part of me is still a little on edge, like I_d never considered the possibility of him moving on to something better, and now that it_s there, I have no way to escape it. We pose the shot, one arm around his neck, and the other holding my phone up so I can actually take the picture. And then he presses his lips to mine, and as the camera flashes, I can pretend that this is all we_ll ever need, the two of us wrapped up in each other. He pulls away almost immediately, asking me to pass the phone over so he can take a look. Then he laughs, throwing his head back. _You_re way too short to get a shot like this. Let me do it._ So I agree because all this means is that we have to take the shot again, and this is a moment in time I have no problem reliving forever.

  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck /  .   (by Jeff Kinney, 2013) -   The Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever /  .   (by Jeff Kinney, 2011) -   The Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules /  .   (by Jeff Kinney, 2009) -   Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid /   (by Jeff Kinney, 2008) -   Diary of a Wimpy Kid /
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