Home > What If It's Us(13)

What If It's Us(13)
Author: Adam Silvera, Becky Albertalli

I sink back into my chair. “That was so humiliating.”

“Whatever. You were being a wimpy little butt,” says Namrata. “You weren’t even going to talk to him.”

“That wasn’t even him! It was the wrong guy.”

“Well, obviously. He didn’t recognize you at all.”

Juliet leans back in her chair. “So it was a totally different Hudson?”

“Or it’s the ex-boyfriend,” Namrata says casually. “In which case, you’re welcome. I just got you his last name.”

“Wait,” I murmur.

But the rest of my words evaporate.

Because maybe Namrata’s wrong. But maybe she’s not wrong.

Maybe Hudson Robinson—backward-cap-wearing, eyebrow-god Hudson Robinson—is Box Boy’s ex. I bet he’s been too depressed to wash his hair since the breakup, which is why he’s wearing the hat. Holy shit.

Hudson Robinson. I’m not a stalker or anything. It’s not like I’m going to show up on his doorstep. But everyone’s on the internet somewhere, right?

I mean, maybe I was actually fated to meet the boy from the post office. Maybe I’m fated to find him again. And maybe—just maybe—I’m supposed to find him by following the boy who brought him to the post office in the first place.

Hudson Robinson, I type. And then I click enter.

Chapter Eight

Ben

Class was rough and the last thing I really want to be doing is meeting Dylan’s future temporary girlfriend, but I rush downtown anyway as if getting far enough away from school can help me forget about how much it hurts to be excluded from all the laughs Hudson and Harriett share at the beginning and end of class. I get off the train and Dylan is outside a pharmacy holding a Dream & Bean thermos and a bouquet of flowers.

“You have Murderer Face going on right now,” Dylan says. “Guilty Murderer Face. Maybe we can turn that frown upside down before you meet Samantha. Happy Best Friend Face, if you need any suggestions.” Dylan winks.

I will play along with Happy Best Friend Face because it’s Dylan. But it really is getting exhausting getting to know all of his girlfriends, bonding with them, and losing their friendship pretty quickly after Dylan cuts ties with them.

“You got it. What’s going on with the roses?” I ask.

“Samantha mentioned roses are her favorite flower while we were watching Titanic,” Dylan says, beaming, like it’s a superhuman trait to remember something that was said less than twenty-four hours ago.

“You guys hung out?”

“Over FaceTime last night.”

“You were on FaceTime the whole time? Isn’t that movie over three hours long?”

Dylan nods. “It took us over four hours to get through it. We kept pausing to talk.”

“That’s impressive,” I say. I mean it. Especially considering how much sleep he lost the night before because Samantha hadn’t texted him back about Elliott Smith. It turns out she just hadn’t had a chance to listen to the songs yet. And she loved them all. “Did you like it?”

“I thought the ship was going to sink a lot sooner, if you catch my drift.”

“You were bored until the ship started sinking—”

“I was bored until the ship started sinking, yes.”

Dylan has some serious pep in his step as we rush to the coffee shop. He’s dodging people left and right, and I can barely hear him go on about how there was room for Jack and Rose on that floating door or how they could’ve at least taken turns. Dylan stops at the corner.

“Okay. How do I look?”

He’s got bags under his eyes and he’s wearing a Kool Koffee T-shirt, which feels super extra, but otherwise good. Except: “Might want to toss the Dream & Bean cup.”

Dylan tosses the thermos at me like it’s a grenade and we pass it back and forth before I finally throw it in my backpack.

“You’re ridiculous,” I say as we walk inside Kool Koffee. The coffee shop smells like pretentious writers who would hate the stuff I write.

Samantha is behind the counter in all her glory. She stops taking someone’s order and waves. Her dark curls are flattened by a khaki cap, and her blue-green eyes are beaming at Dylan. And boom, bright white teeth when she smiles over a customer’s shoulder. I’m certain that I’m 100 percent gay because if I was even 1 percent bisexual I would be crushing hard on Samantha for looks and high energy alone. Dylan watches Samantha as if she were glowing, and I wonder when I went dim for Hudson. If I ever really glowed for him at all.

Oh shit. One free table left. “I’m grabbing that table,” I say.

Dylan wrenches me back. “You have to order. Also, I’m nervous I’ll say something stupid.”

“You’ll be fine.”

“I almost walked in here with coffee from the enemy.”

I stay put.

I have my Happy Best Friend Face on, even when some hopeful novelist-looking type our age takes the last available table, opening his laptop to write the Next Harry Potter before I can. He’s cool to look at, at least. Bright eyes, dark brown skin, Caesar cut, a shirt with the Human Torch on it. If I were ballsier, sort of like that Arthur dude or Dylan with Samantha, I would make the first move. I’d sit across from him, say what’s up, chat about writing, find out if he’s into guys, call him pretty, pray he calls me pretty back, get his phone number, fall in love. But I’m not ballsy, so I don’t.

We reach the front of the line and Samantha reaches over the counter, almost knocking over a spinner of impulse-buy cookies. “I’m a hugger,” she says. She’s undersold herself because she’s not simply a hugger, she’s a damn good hugger. “So nice to meet you, Ben.”

“You too, Samantha. Samantha, right? Not Sam? Not Sammy?”

“Only my mom calls me Sammy. Weirds me out whenever anyone else does. Thanks for asking,” Samantha says. She turns to Dylan. “Hi.”

“Hi,” he says. “How you doing?”

“Good. Busy.” She smiles at the roses. “You’re sweet. Unless those aren’t for me, then I’m spitting in your coffee.”

“All yours,” Dylan says.

Samantha picks up a cup, writes Dylan’s name inside a heart, and gets his spit-free large coffee started. “What can I get you, Ben?”

“I don’t know. A strawberry lemonade, I guess.” Sugar FTW.

“Small, medium, large?”

I look at the prices on the menu. “Small. Definitely small.” Holy shit, $3.50 for a small cup of half ice, half juice? I could go on an adventure with a $2.75 single ride MetroCard with change to spare. Buy a gallon of orange juice. Three packs of Skittles and five Swedish Fish at the corner store.

“You got it,” Samantha says. She draws a smiley face under my name. “I’ll be free in a couple minutes. Let me just close out this line.”

We wait at the end of the bar. I take another peek at the dude in the Human Torch shirt. He’s wearing headphones now and I wonder what he’s listening to. Hudson liked a lot of classics. I’m more into whatever is trending that month. I don’t seek out new songs, but if it’s catchy, I’m set. It’d be cool to date someone who liked the same stuff I did. We wouldn’t clash during road trips to see life outside the city. We could share earphones and vibe to the same song while relaxing somewhere quiet.

A girl gets up from her corner table, wiping it down with napkins, and before I can charge to see if she’s leaving, two vultures—excuse me, dudes in suits on their lunch break—swarm in and take the table.

“You should’ve let me get the table,” I say.

“Isn’t she awesome?” Dylan asks.

“Yup,” I say automatically.

Samantha comes out from behind the counter, singing our names. “Here you go.” She walks to the standing bar. “Thanks for stopping by.”

“Dylan wouldn’t miss it for the world,” I say. “Me either, obviously.”

“Beats going home and doing homework, right?” Dylan says.

I just nod.

I don’t really want anyone knowing I’m in summer school. It was embarrassing enough sitting in homeroom toward the end of the school year when I wasn’t handed my report card and had to go meet with the guidance counselor. Everyone in homeroom knew it meant I was getting the go-to-summer-school-or-repeat-eleventh-grade-in-a-different-school chat. I should’ve gone that second route. I would have my summer and be Hudson-free in September and beyond too.

   
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