“You should hang with us,” I say. I mean it. “I’m cool being the third wheel.”
“I feel like I’ll be the third wheel,” Samantha says.
“Ben, find a dude and let’s make it a double date.”
“Okay, sure, yeah, I’ll just spin around and choose someone here.”
I turn as a joke and I make eye contact with the cute guy in the Human Torch shirt. I spin back to Dylan and Samantha with flushed cheeks. This is the universe popping up again. I want to make a move here. Because what if he’s the one who’s really supposed to fill the space that was carved out for Hudson?
“I’m going to say hi to that guy,” I announce.
“Ooh, which guy?” Samantha asks.
“The dude with the laptop.” I realize there are four dudes with laptops in my line of vision. “Human Torch shirt.”
“Go for it,” Dylan says. “Get yours. Do it! Do it!”
Get mine. Hudson isn’t the only one who can move on. I’m not going to psych myself out. I’m walking over and going to tell him he took my table as a joke and—
A gorgeous black girl approaches his table and she kisses him right on the lips.
I return to Dylan and Samantha.
“Of course he’s straight,” I say.
“Maybe he’s bi,” Dylan says. “And in an open relationship.”
“Or my life sucks,” I say. “And maybe Hudson will be the last person who wanted me.”
“That alien wanted you,” Dylan says.
“Alien?” Samantha asks.
“But I’m never going to see him again,” I say.
“Come on, there’s got to be something about him we can try to find.”
“What alien?” Samantha asks again.
“I met a guy at the post office,” I say. “His name is Arthur. But I didn’t get his last name and I don’t remember giving him my name at all.”
“Oh my god.” Samantha squeezes my arm while bouncing. “I love a mystery. My best friend, Patrick—”
“Your best friend is a guy?” Dylan asks.
“—calls me the Nancy Drew of social media—”
“Is Patrick gay?”
“—because I helped him find some girl online—”
“—that he met at his brother’s graduation.”
I ignore Dylan’s dizzying interruptions and focus on Samantha. “How did you find her?”
“He told me everything about the graduation that I could use as keywords for Twitter searches, like the ugly beige gowns and some quotable moments from the valedictorian’s speech. But then we just went down a rabbit hole of the graduation’s hashtag on Instagram and found her. Turns out she doesn’t have Twitter.”
“Okay, but really, back to Patrick,” Dylan says.
Samantha grabs Dylan by the shoulders. “Patrick is like a brother to me, creep. Good? Yay. Ben, tell me everything you know about Arthur.”
“No point. I already did the Twitter hunt and I came up with nothing.”
“Are you also the Nancy Drew of social media?” Samantha asks.
I smile. It’s cool that she’s so generous—or maybe she’s really bored. Either way, I fill her in on everything I already searched for on Twitter.
“I need more than hot dog ties and Georgia,” Samantha says. “I’m good, but come on. Why is he here for the summer?”
“Oh, because of his mom. She’s a lawyer and she’s working a case.”
“Do you know the firm? Or anything about the case?” Samantha pulls out her phone and takes notes on her phone. Screw the app business, she needs to become a detective.
“No times two. But it’s a firm that also has offices back in Georgia. Milton, Georgia! Milton like his uncle who’s great,” I say.
“Is his uncle a great guy or is he a great-uncle?”
“Oh.” I don’t remember. I shrug.
“There’s that summer school brain kicking in,” Dylan says.
Samantha slaps his shoulder. “It’s okay. It won’t matter too much. Anything else?”
I’m too hung up on thinking about Dylan’s comment. I know I’m in summer school, I wake up with that FML tightness in my chest every morning. Summer school is where I have to face my ex-boyfriend and scary future. I’m not someone like Arthur who’s dreaming about amazing colleges.
“Yale!” I say.
“Say what?” Dylan is super puzzled.
“Arthur said he stopped by Yale’s campus. He’s kind of baby-faced, but he can be starting there this fall, right?”
“This is all super helpful,” Samantha says. “I should head back behind the counter in a sec, but anything else?”
I think about all the good stuff that probably won’t be helpful. Like how awkward he was when talking about my “big package.” How he lit up when he realized I was gay too, even though I was in the middle of telling him about my breakup. His enthusiasm for the universe like it’s actually a friend of ours. Then I remember something useful.
“He’s leaving at the end of summer,” I say. There’s no point.
“Incentive to work faster!” Samantha is beaming like she has all the hope in the world, and I wish she would share some because there’s no way that the same universe that locks me away in summer school with my ex-boyfriend will also reunite me with a cute guy. “Okay, I have to run back.” She hugs me. She smells like espresso and scones. “It was so great meeting you, Ben. I hope I can put this puzzle together for you and find your boy. But if not, I have no doubt someone awesome will cross your path and fall for you hard.”
“Maybe that someone has been in your life for years,” Dylan says, placing his hand on mine.
Samantha laughs. “I knew it. I’m totally going to be the third wheel tomorrow.”
“Fear not, future wife of mine. If you get scared tomorrow night, I’ll only tend to you.” He smiles at her.
Samantha isn’t smiling back. She stares at the floor and scratches her head.
I catch the moment Dylan realizes he’s really overshot it with the flirting—that maybe Samantha isn’t about marriage talk after two days.
“I’ll catch you guys later.” She goes behind the counter, puts on her hat, and gets back to work.
“Oh no,” he says.
“It was just a joke.”
“Give her some space. She’s working. You can talk later.”
Dylan leads the way out. “Is it that bad? Really?”
He turns around a few more times, like maybe he’s trying to see if she’s paying attention to him walking out. Maybe he’s getting one last look at her.
Okay. Fuck Google.
No, seriously, fuck Google. And fuck Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson. Fuck them for getting married and fuck them for getting divorced and fuck them in general. Because do you know what pops up when you google Hudson Robinson? Spoiler: it’s not the boy from Panera.
I sink backward onto my bed, staring up at the ceiling. I feel wired and on edge, and my room feels even smaller than usual. Sometimes New York feels like a full-body corset.
Five seconds later, my phone starts vibrating. And it’s Ethan.