“Can I help you?” Stan and his apathetic skinny mustache were waiting for me.
“Um, a caramel frap, a fat-free soy latte, and …” I turned to Sahil. “What can I get you?”
His brown eyes widened. “Oh, uh, nothing. You don’t have to do that.”
I just kept looking at him. At his complete lack of desire to cross paths with me in any shape or form. I fought against the painful tightening in my throat. “I know I don’t have to, Sahil,” I said quietly. “But I want to. Please let me?”
He opened his mouth to argue, then studied my expression and closed it again. “Okay. I’ll have an iced mocha.” He cleared his throat. “Thanks.”
I nodded and spoke to Stan to finish the order. We stood off to the side while he made them, and I looked up at Sahil, who was staring at some poster on the wall. “So,” I said, and he turned somewhat reluctantly to look at me. I forced a smile. “Are you ready? For Midsummer Night, I mean.”
“I am,” he said. “But as the producer, I don’t have to do anything. You’re the one who gets all the glory.”
I took a deep breath. “Or all the flak.”
Victoria came out of the bathroom, headed toward me, and then, seeing who I was talking to, made an abrupt right turn and went off to find us a table.
“Are you nervous?” Sahil asked, his face showing genuine concern.
My heart melted a little. Maybe he still cared? Way, way deep down somewhere? Maybe he knew in some small part of him that I wasn’t the crappy, horrible, mean girl he thought I was, the one who weighed him against his brother like everyone else. “Not exactly, funnily enough,” I said, looking right into those soft brown eyes. “I think I’m just going to be honest and hope people see where I’m coming from. Who I really am.”
After a long pause, he nodded and looked away, like he knew I wasn’t just talking about the movie.
“Sahil—” I began, just as Stan called our names.
“Twinkle. Nothing’s changed. I don’t know if you fully appreciate how much it hurts, just seeing you here. Talking to you. So … please. If you care about me at all, just …” He swallowed, and a muscle in his jaw twitched as he looked at some spot above my head. Then, meeting my eye again, he said, “Please just give me some space to get over this. Okay?”
“Okay.” I mouthed the word; my voice had disappeared.
With one long look at me, Sahil grabbed his drink and headed out the door.
Victoria was staring at me as I sat down with our drinks. “That looked … brutal.”
I slid her latte over. “Yeah. It was even worse up close.”
She made a face and patted my hand. “That sucks. Want to talk about it?”
I looked at her pretty face, her perfect makeup, her gorgeous hair. She could’ve been any number of glamorous places—it was Friday night—but she had chosen to come to my authentically rickety house instead. I took a sip of my frap and nodded. “Settle in,” I said. “Because it’s kind of a long story.”
Starting with our meeting here in Perk under Stan’s mustache, I filled her in on my future Twinkle fantasy and my secret admirer and how I’d fallen for Sahil. Our first kiss at the cabin, hanging out at the Ferris wheel at the carnival. How Brij had confessed to being N at Banner Lake and how Sahil had heard everything. How heartbroken he was now, how he couldn’t even bear to look at me anymore. “I totally blew it,” I said, shaking my head. “I had everything, you know? I’m such a fool.”
“Mm,” Victoria said. “And a bit of a tool.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Gee, thanks.” In spite of Vic’s brutal honesty, it felt great to finally unburden all of this on someone. Part of me was sad it wasn’t Maddie—I’d always told her everything—but another part of me was so grateful for this new friendship.
“I’m just saying! You should’ve been honest with Sahil about the secret admirer thing.”
“I can see that now. But also … if I had, would he even have given me the time of day? I mean, look at how he’s completely disengaged now. Just mentioning his brother was an anti-Sahil talisman.”
Vic took another sip of her latte and tapped her long fingers on the table. “Yeah. It’s always been like that with them, for as long as I can remember.”