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What If It's Us

What If It's Us

Page 22

I storm back over to Dylan. “This some dumb joke of yours?”

“What? None of my jokes are dumb.”

“Don’t play stupid.”

Dylan reads the paper. “Wait. Holy shit.”

“Is this seriously not you?”

“Dude. Ben. This isn’t me.” Dylan looks me in the eye, and he’s not laughing. “Where was this?”

“Condiment bar. Bulletin board. He must’ve known to put it up here since I was wearing that Dream & Bean shirt.”

“You’re welcome! Man, Samantha is going to be pissed she didn’t solve this herself. Happy for you too, I’m sure.” He grabs my shoulder. “This is it. It’s happening. You’re going to reach out, right? This is amazing. Hollywood will make a movie about you two. And a Netflix spin-off about your gay children.”

“But how? I’m so confused. How did he get this photo? That’s kind of creepy. Am I being stalked? Lured into a trap?”

“Maybe make sure you meet in a public place. With a Taser.”

“I just . . . This doesn’t happen. I see cute guys all the time.”

“Do you ever see them again?”

“Nope.”

Dylan waves the paper around. “Big Ben, your life just got so easy. Don’t get in your head about this. No one wants to binge a Netflix series about someone who does nothing, no matter how cute your smile and freckles are.”

I stare at the email at the bottom of the flyer.

I guess I’m not Friday the thirteenth’s bitch.

I’m the boy from the post office.

And Arthur is looking for me too.

We’re not ready to press play on Chucky. Dylan and I are sitting on his bed. He’s on his phone and torturing himself by looking through Samantha’s Facebook profile. And I can’t stop staring at the paper from Dream & Bean, which I pocketed from the bulletin board since no one else will need a photo of my face. I’ve typed the email address into my phone already, but my message is blank.

“You got to help me out here, D. What do I do?”

“Just speak from the dick, Big Ben.”

“You’re canceled if you don’t help me write a useful message to Arthur.”

“Right. Okay. If you’re not going to speak from the dick, I think you should speak from the heart. That seems like the next logical step.”

“Speaking from the dick was never a logical step.”

“Says you.”

If you let Dylan go on long enough, like I do, he eventually hits on the thing a normal person would know to say immediately. Like how I should just speak from the heart.

I keep it really simple and say the thing that I’ve been feeling ever since I first saw my face on that bulletin board: Is this for real?

Chapter Eleven

Arthur

“You need to chill,” Dad says. “Put it aside and check in an hour.”

“Yeah, but what if—”

“What if he emails you? Perfect. You don’t want to write back right away anyway.”

“I don’t?”

“No no no. God no. You have to play it cool, Art. Not too cool. But a little cool,” says the man wearing an apron with a picture of a flash drive and the words Back that thing up.

My phone buzzes with a new email notification.

Dad makes a grab for it, but I swipe it out of his reach and tap into my inbox.

Two more. This blows my mind. The poster’s only been up for eleven hours, and I’ve already gotten sixteen emails.

Saw ur poster, I’m not your boy but good luck!

OMG this is so romantic & the boy in the pic is so hot wow

Nothing from Box Boy, of course, but my heartbeat doesn’t know that. It goes haywire every time.

I skim their subject lines quickly. The first one says, how old are you. No punctuation or preamble. The second one says: Is this real?

“Come on, I need you. We’re making grilled cheese.” He holds up a giant knife. “Lose the phone. Now.”

“Or else . . . you’ll stab me?”

“What?” His brow furrows. Then he glances at his knife. “Oh. Ha. No. I’m cutting the crusts off the bread. Go put your phone away, Wart.”

“Wart?”

“Like The Sword in the Stone. No?”

“No.” I tap into the second email from someone named Ben Hugo. I bet it’s nothing. It’s probably some random fuckboy. But there’s this knot in my stomach, and I can’t seem to untie it.

Because what if it’s him?

“I think I’m going to call you Wart until you put your phone away,” Dad says.

Okay, there’s text. There’s a paragraph. And—

Holy shit.

Hey, so I don’t know if this is supposed to be a joke or a prank or what, but I saw your flyer about the post office. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little freaked out. In a good way, though. Because I think I’m the guy you’re looking for? I hope that isn’t creepy. Anyway, hi again. I’m Ben.

I just stare at it.

I’m speechless.

My hands are shaking. I need to—okay. I’m sitting down. On the edge of my bed. Phone’s in both hands. All the words are hazy. I can’t quite—Ben. He has a name, and it’s perfect. Arthur and Ben. Arthur and Benjamin.

I have to write back. Holy shit. This is real.

Unless.

I stare at the message. Okay.

Okay.

So, it’s technically possible that someone’s trolling me. Which means I can’t get excited. Not yet.

I have to test him.

Hey Ben.

Ben. So you claim.

Thanks for your email. It’s very nice to meet you. Please answer the following question in detail: on the day of our meeting at the post office, what type of piercing did the postal employee have?

Send.

A minute later: Is this a joke?

Excuse me?

In detail? You sound like my teachers. Smiley face.

Okay, that’s rude, right?

I type quickly. Yeah . . . this actually isn’t a joke, so if you’re just here to make fun of me, please don’t.

Send.

But Ben doesn’t reply, for what feels like an hour.

“Wart, are you alive in there?”

Dad. I almost jump.

“Coming! Just—”

My phone buzzes. You think I’m making fun of you?

Well. Yeah.

Okay, wow. I’m sorry. I’m not, I promise.

My stomach flips. Okay.

Look, do you want to just call me? I think maybe that would work better.

He wants me to call him. Like an actual phone call. With Benjamin. Ben. Who isn’t making fun of me. Of course he’s isn’t. He’s Ben. He would never.

He sends me his number.

I click call. And it’s ringing. This is happening. This is—

“Hey.”

Oh my God.

“Is this Arthur?” His voice sounds muffled. “Hold on.”

I hear shuffling and footsteps. Then a door closing.

“Okay, sorry. It’s just—my friend. Anyway, listen. I’m not making fun of your email. It just—I don’t know. It sounded like something a teacher would write. It was cute.”

“Teachers aren’t cute.”

That makes him laugh. Which makes me smile. But I can’t tell if it’s him. I can’t tell if Ben’s my guy. I was so sure I’d recognize his voice. I thought I’d know him as soon as I heard it.

“You never answered my question,” I say.

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