“Elle, I’m telling you this as your best friend. This is a really bad idea.”
Nikki’s words come through the phone loud and clear, but they don’t register. Because I’m set on my plan. I’ve been hooking up with Tom Allen for exactly one month, and tonight I’m going to surprise him. I place one final balloon by his bed, then adjust the “Happy Anniversary!” sign I taped to the headboard.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I tell her. “And I know Tom and I aren’t official or anything. But once he knows how I feel, all of that is going to change.” Loud footsteps suddenly sound from the hall. “Got to go! He’s here.”
I end the call and jump on Tom’s bed. The door opens, and the speed of my already racing heart ratchets up a notch. When his blond head finally appears, I throw my hands in the air. “HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, TOM!”
He jumps back at the sound of my voice. He looks at me, then around the room, in shock. “Elle? What are you doing here?”
I climb off the bed and give him my biggest smile. “I wanted to surprise you. I know we don’t usually see each other during the week, but I thought it’d be okay to make an exception. You know, since today is our one-month and all.”
I gesture to the sign and my T-shirt. Both proclaim the happy message. But the look on his face morphs into one of horror, and laughter sounds from behind him. It’s then I notice that he’s not alone. His frat brothers are here too, and it’s clear they’re enjoying the drama. My smile starts to falter. I look back at Tom, whose face has gone hard.
“Elle, we’re not dating,” he snaps.
“Not yet, but—”
His nostrils flare. “Not ever. I know I made that clear. I told you I wasn’t looking for a relationship.”
“Right, but I thought…” I trail off when I realize the laughter outside the room is only growing louder.
Tom stomps over to the headboard and rips off the sign. “Whatever you thought was wrong. I call you on the weekends, we fuck, and that’s it. That’s all this is. I mean…” He swipes his hand over the bed, pushing the scattered rose petals to the floor. “Are you serious with all this shit?”
My lower lip starts to tremble, and humiliation burns through me like battery acid. I thought this thing between Tom and me was different. I thought we really connected. But Nikki was right. This was a bad idea. I was misreading the situation, just like I always do.
Tom rolls his eyes at my expression. “Great. Now I’m the bad guy. You know, I heard around campus you were a little crazy. A stage-five clinger. I ignored it because of how hot you are, but joke’s on me, I guess.”
I start backing away, knowing what’s coming next. I don’t want to hear it.
His eyes narrow on mine. “You and I? We’re done.”
I turn and make a beeline for the door. I hate those two stupid words. I’ve heard them time and time again, from guy after guy. I’m so flustered that I bump into someone on my way out. I look up and into the eyes of Steve Towers, and my stomach sinks further. Figures I’d embarrass myself in front of one of the most popular guys on campus.
When I see his expression, I don’t stop to apologize. Because if there’s anything worse than rejection or laughter, it’s pity.