This Girl

By: Colleen Hoover

1.

the honeymoon

IF I TOOK every romantic poem, every book, every song, and every movie I’ve ever read, heard, or seen and extracted the breathtaking moments, somehow bottling them up, they would pale in comparison to this moment.

This moment is incomparable.

She’s lying on her side facing me, her elbow tucked under her head, her other hand stroking the back of mine that’s lying between us on the bed. Her hair is spread out across the pillow, spilling down her shoulder and across her neck. She’s staring at her fingers as they move in circles over my hand. I’ve known her almost two years now, and I’ve never seen her this content. She’s no longer solely carrying the weight that’s been her life for the last two years, and it shows. It’s almost as if the moment we said “I do” yesterday, the hardships and heartaches we faced as individuals were meshed, making our pasts lighter and easier to carry. From this point on I’ll be able to do that for her. Should there be any more burdens I’ll be able to carry them for her. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do for this girl since the moment I first laid eyes on her.

She glances up at me and smiles, then laughs and buries her face in the pillow.

I lean over her and kiss her on the neck. “What’s so funny?”

She lifts her face off the pillow—her cheeks a deeper shade of red. She shakes her head and laughs. “Us,” she says. “It’s only been twenty-four hours and I’ve already lost count.”

I kiss her scarlet cheek and laugh. “I’m done with counting, Lake. I’ve had about all the countdowns I can handle for a lifetime.” I wrap my arm around her waist and pull her on top of me. When she leans in to kiss me, her hair falls between us. I reach to the nightstand and grab her rubber band, then twist her hair into a knot behind her head and secure it. “There,” I say, pulling her face back to mine. “Better.”

She was adamant about having the robes, but we haven’t once used them. Her ugly shirt has been on the floor since I threw it there last night. Needless to say, this has been the best twenty-four hours of my life.

She kisses down my jaw and traces a trail with her lips up to my ear. “You hungry?” she whispers.

“Not for food.”

She pulls back and grins. “We’ve still got another twenty-four hours to go, you know. If you want to keep up with me you need to replenish your energy. Besides, we somehow missed lunch today.” She rolls off me, reaches into the nightstand, and pulls out the room service menu.

“No burgers,” I say.

She rolls her eyes and laughs. “You’ll never get over that.” She scrolls the menu and points at it with her finger, holding it up. “What about beef Wellington? I’ve always wanted to try that.”

“Sounds good,” I say, inching closer to her. She picks up the phone to dial room service. The whole time she’s on the phone I kiss up and down her back, forcing her to stifle her laughs as she tries to maintain her composure while ordering. When she hangs up the phone, she slides underneath me and pulls the covers over us.

“You have twenty minutes,” she whispers. “Think you can handle that?”

“I only need ten.”

THE BEEF WELLINGTON did not disappoint. The only issue now is that we’re too stuffed and too tired to move. We’ve turned the TV on for the first time since I walked her over the threshold, so I think it’s safe to say we’re due for at least a two-hour break.

Our legs are intertwined and her head is on my chest. I’m running my fingers through her hair with one hand and stroking her wrist with the other. Somehow trivial things like lying in bed watching TV have become euphoric when we’re tangled together like this.

“Will?” She pulls herself up onto her elbow and looks at me. “Can I ask you something?” She runs her hand across my chest, then rests it on top of my heart.

“I do about twelve laps a day on the University track, plus one hundred sit-ups twice a day,” I say. She arches an eyebrow, so I point to my stomach. “Weren’t you asking about my abs?”

She laughs and playfully punches me. “No, I wasn’t asking about your abs.” She leans down and kisses me on the stomach. “They are nice, though.”

I stroke her cheek and pull her gaze back to mine. “Ask me anything, babe.”

She sighs and drops her elbow and lays her head back onto the pillow, staring up at the ceiling. “Do you ever feel guilty?” she says quietly. “For feeling this happy?”

I scoot closer to her and lay my arm across her stomach. “Lake. Don’t ever feel guilty. This is exactly what they’d want for you.”

She looks at me and forces a smile. “I know it’s what they’d want for me. I just . . . I don’t know. If I could take back everything that happened, I would do it in a heartbeat if it meant I could have them back. But doing that would mean I never would have met you. So sometimes I feel guilty because I . . .”

I press my fingers to her lips. “Shh,” I say. “Don’t think like that, Lake. Don’t think about what ifs.” I lean in and kiss her on the forehead. “But I do know what you mean if that helps. It’s counterproductive thinking about it, though. It is what it is.”

She takes her hand in mine and intertwines our fingers, then brings them to her mouth and kisses the back of my hand. “My dad would have loved you.”

“My mom would have loved you,” I say.

She smiles. “One more thing about the past, then I’ll stop bringing it up.” She looks at me with a slightly evil grin on her face. “I’m so glad that bitch Vaughn dumped you.”

I laugh. “No doubt.”

She smiles and releases her fingers from mine. She turns toward me on the bed and looks at me. I pull her hand to my mouth and kiss the inside of her palm.

“Do you think you would have married her?”

I laugh and roll my eyes. “Seriously, Lake? Do you really want to talk about this right now?”

She smiles sheepishly at me. “I’m just curious. We’ve never really talked about the past before. Now that I know you aren’t going anywhere, I feel more comfortable talking about it. Besides, there are a lot of things I want to know about you,” she says. “Like how it felt when she broke up with you like she did.”

“That’s an odd thing to want to hear about on your honeymoon.”

She shrugs her shoulders. “I just want to know everything about you. I’ve already got your future, now I want to get to know your past. Besides,” she grins. “We’ve got a couple of hours to kill before your energy is fully replenished. What else are we going to do?”

I’m too exhausted to move right now and as much as I can pretend I’m not keeping count, nine times in twenty-four hours must be some sort of record. I roll over onto my stomach and prop a pillow under my chin, and then begin to tell her my story.

the breakup

“GOODNIGHT, CAULDER.” I flip off the light and hope he doesn’t crawl out of bed again. It’s our third night with it being just the two of us here. He was too scared to sleep by himself last night so I let him sleep with me. I’m hoping it doesn’t become a habit, but I would completely understand if it did.

I still can’t wrap my head around all that’s happened in the last two weeks, much less the decisions I’ve made. I hope I’m doing the right thing. I know my parents want us to be together, I just don’t think they approve of my dropping my scholarship to make it happen.

Why do I keep referring to them in the present tense?

This is really going to be an adjustment. I make my way into my bedroom and drop onto the bed. I’m too exhausted to even reach over and turn off the lamp. As soon as I close my eyes, there’s a light tap on my bedroom door.

“Caulder, you’ll be fine. Go back to sleep,” I say, somehow dragging myself off the bed again to coax him back to his room. He has successfully slept alone for seven years; I know he’s capable of doing it again.

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