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Ugly Love(3)
Colleen Hoover

My heart forgets to wait and get to know a girl before it starts to claw its way out of my chest to get to her.

Rachel.

Rachel.

Rachel, Rachel, Rachel.

She’s like poetry.

Like prose and love letters and lyrics, cascading down

the

center

of

a

page.

Rachel, Rachel, Rachel.

I say her name over and over in my head, because I’m positive

it’s the name of the next girl I’ll fall in love with.

I’m suddenly standing. Walking toward her. I might

be smiling, pretending I’m not affected by those green

eyes that I hope will one day be smiling just for me. Or

that red-as-my-heart hair that doesn’t look like it’s been

tampered with since God created it specifically with her

in mind.

I’m talking to her.

I tell her my name is Miles.

I tell her she can follow me and I’ll show her the way to Mr.

Clayton’s class.

I’m staring at her because she hasn’t spoken yet, but her nod is

the nicest thing a girl has ever said to me.

I ask her where she’s from, and she tells me Arizona. “Phoenix,”

she specifies.

I don’t ask her what brought her to California, but I do tell her

my father does business in Phoenix a lot because he owns a few

buildings there.

She smiles.

I tell her I’ve never been there but I’d like to go one day.

She smiles again.

I think she says it’s a nice town, but it’s hard to understand her

words when all I hear in my head is her name.

Rachel.

I’m gonna fall in love with you, Rachel.

Her smile makes me want to keep talking, so I ask her another

question as we pass Mr. Clayton’s room.

We keep walking.

She keeps talking, because I keep asking her questions.

She nods some.

She answers some.

She sings some.

Or it sounds that way.

We get to the end of the hallway, right when she says

something about how she hopes she likes this school because

she wasn’t ready to move away from Phoenix.

She doesn’t look happy about the move.

She doesn’t know how happy I am about the move.

“Where’s Mr. Clayton’s classroom?” she asks.

I stare at the mouth that just delivered that question. Her

lips aren’t symmetrical. Her top lip is slightly thinner than

her bottom lip, but you can’t tell until she talks. When

words come out of her mouth, it makes me wonder why

words are so much better coming from her mouth than any

other mouth.

And her eyes. There’s no way her eyes aren’t seeing a prettier,

more peaceful world than all the other eyes.

I stare at her for a few more seconds; then I point behind me

and tell her we passed Mr. Clayton’s classroom.

Her cheeks grow a shade pinker, like my confession affected

her in the same way she’s affecting me.

I smile again.

I nod my head toward Mr. Clayton’s class.

We walk in that direction.

Rachel.

You’re gonna fall in love with me, Rachel.

I open the door for her and let Mr. Clayton know that Rachel

is new here. I also want to add, for the sake of all the other

guys in the classroom, that Rachel is not theirs.

She’s mine.

But I don’t say anything.

I don’t have to, because the only one who needs to be aware

that I want Rachel is Rachel.

She looks at me and smiles again, taking the only empty seat,

all the way across the room.

Her eyes tell me she already knows she’s mine.

It’s just a matter of time.

I want to text Ian and tell her she isn’t hot. I want to tell him

she’s volcanic, but he would laugh at that.

Instead, I discreetly take a picture of her from where I’m

seated.

I send the picture in a message to Ian that says, “She’s gonna

have all my babies.”

Mr. Clayton begins class.

Miles Archer becomes obsessed.

I met Rachel on Monday.

It’s Friday.

I’ve said nothing to her since the day we met. I don’t know

why. We have three classes together. Every time I see her, she

smiles at me like she wants me to talk to her. Every time I work

up the courage, I talk myself down.

I used to be confident.

Then Rachel happened.

I gave myself until today. If I didn’t work up the courage by

today, I’d be giving up my only shot with her. Girls like Rachel

aren’t available for long.

If she’s even available.

I don’t know her story or if she’s wrapped up in a guy back in

Phoenix, but there’s only one way to find out.

I’m standing next to her locker, waiting for her. She exits the

classroom and smiles at me. I say “Hi” when she walks up to

her locker. I notice that same subtle change in her skin color. I

like that.

I ask how her first week was. She tells me it was fine. I ask her

if she’s made any friends, and she shrugs as she says, “A few.”

I smell her, subtly.

She notices anyway.

I tell her she smells good.

She says, “Thank you.”

I push through the sound of my heart pounding in my

ears. I push past the sheen of moisture developing on

my palms. I drown out her name, which I keep wanting

to repeat out loud, over and over. I push it all down

and hold her stare while I ask her if she’d like to do

something later.

I keep it all pushed away and make room for her response,

because it’s the only thing I want.

I want that nod, actually. The one that doesn’t require words?

Just a smile?

I don’t get her nod.

She has plans tonight.

It all comes back tenfold, spilling over like a flood and I’m the

dam. The pounding, the sweaty palms, her name, a newfound

insecurity I never knew existed, burying itself in my chest. All

of it takes over and feels like it’s building a wall around her.

“I’m not busy tomorrow, though,” she says, obliterating the

wall with her words.

I make room for those words. Lots of room. I let them invade

me. I soak those words up like a sponge. I pluck them out of

the air and swallow them.

“Tomorrow works for me,” I say. I pull my phone out of my

pocket, not even bothering to hide my smile. “What’s your

number? I’ll call you.”

She tells me her number.

She’s excited.

She’s excited.

I save her contact in my phone, knowing it’ll be there for a

long, long time.

And I’m gonna use it.

A lot.

Chapter three

TATE

Normally, if I were to wake up, open my eyes, and see an angry man staring me down from a bedroom doorway, I might scream. I might throw things. I might run to the bathroom and lock myself inside.

I don’t do any of these things, though.

I stare back, because I’m confused about how this is the same guy who was passed out drunk in the hallway. How is this the same guy who cried himself to sleep last night?

This guy is intimidating. This guy is angry. This guy is watching me like I should be giving him an apology or explaining myself.

It is the same guy, though, because he’s wearing the same pair of jeans and the same black T-shirt he fell asleep in last night. The only difference in his appearance between last night and this morning is that he’s now able to stand up without assistance.

“What happened to my hand, Tate?”

He knows my name. Does he know it because Corbin told him I was moving in or because he actually remembers my telling him last night? I’m hoping Corbin told him, because I don’t really want him to remember last night. I suddenly feel embarrassed that he might recall my consoling him while he cried himself to sleep.

He apparently doesn’t have a clue what happened to his hand, though, so I hope that means he has no recollection of anything beyond that.

He’s leaning against my bedroom door with his arms folded across his chest. He looks defensive, like I’m the one responsible for his bad night. I roll over, still not quite finished with sleeping, even though he thinks I owe him some sort of explanation. I pull the covers over my head.

“Lock the front door on your way out,” I say, hoping he’ll take the hint that he is more than welcome to go back to his place now.

“Where’s my phone?”

I squeeze my eyes shut and try to drown out the smooth sound of his voice as it slides into my ears and makes its way through every nerve in my body, warming me in places this flimsy blanket failed to do all night.

I remind myself that the person that sultry voice belongs to is now standing in the doorway, rudely demanding things without even acknowledging the fact that I helped him last night. I’d like to know where my Thank you is. Or my Hey, I’m Miles. Nice to meet you.

I get none of that from this guy. He’s too worried about his hand. And his phone, apparently. Too worried about himself to be concerned about how many people his carelessness might have inconvenienced last night. If this guy and his attitude are going to be my neighbors for the next few months, I’d better set him straight now.

I toss the covers off and stand up, then walk to the door and meet his gaze. “Do me a favor and take a step back.”

Surprisingly, he does. I keep my eyes locked with his until the bedroom door slams in his face and I’m looking at the back of the door. I smile and walk back to my bed. I lie down and pull the covers over my head.

I win.

Have I mentioned I’m not much of a morning person?

The door opens again.

Fliesopen.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” he yells.

I groan, then sit up on the bed and look at him. He’s standing in the doorway once again, still looking at me like I owe him something.

“You!”I yell back.

He looks genuinely shocked at my harsh response, which kind of makes me feel bad. But he’sthe one being the jerk!

I think.

He started it.

I think.

He eyes me hard for a few seconds, then tilts his head slightly forward and arches an eyebrow.

“Did we …” He motions his finger back and forth between us. “Did we hook up last night? Is that why you’re pissed?”

I laugh when my initial thoughts are confirmed.

He’sbeing the jerk.

And this is great. I’m neighbors with a guy who gets shitfaced on weeknights and obviously brings home so many girls in the process that he can’t even remember which ones he messed around with.

I open my mouth to respond but am cut off by the sound of the apartment door closing and Corbin’s voice yelling out.

“Tate?”

I immediately jump up and rush to the door, but Miles is still blocking the doorway, glaring at me, expecting a response to his question. I look him straight in the eyes to give him an answer, but his eyes catch me off guard for a short moment.

They are the clearest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. Not at all the heavy-lidded, bloodshot eyes from last night. His eyes are so light blue they’re almost colorless. I continue to stare at them, half expecting to see waves if I look closely enough. I’d say they were as clear blue as the waters of the Caribbean, but I’ve never actually been to the Caribbean, so I wouldn’t know.

He blinks, and it immediately pulls me away from the Caribbean and back to San Francisco. Back to this bedroom. Back to the last question he asked before Corbin walked through the front door.

“Not sure if you can call what we did hooking up,” I whisper.

I stare at him, waiting for him to move out of my way.

He stands taller, putting up an invisible wall of armor with his posture and his rigid body language.

Apparently, he doesn’t like to envision the two of us making out, based on the unyielding look he’s giving me. It almost seems like he’s looking at me in disgust, which makes me dislike him that much more.

I don’t back down, and neither of us breaks eye contact when he steps out of my way and allows me to pass him. Corbin is rounding the hallway when I exit my room. He glances back and forth between me and Miles, so I quickly shoot him a look to let him know that’s not even remotely a possibility.

“Hey, Sis,” he says, pulling me in for a hug.

I haven’t seen him in almost six months. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much you miss people until you see them again. That’s not the case with Corbin. I always miss him. As much as his protectiveness can get old at times, it’s also a testament to how close we are.

Corbin releases me and pulls at a lock of my hair. “It’s longer,” he says. “I like it.”

This may be the longest we’ve gone without seeing each other. I reach up and flick the hair hanging across his forehead. “So is yours,” I say. “And I don’tlike it.”

I smile to let him know I’m kidding. I actually like the shaggier look on him. People have always said we look a lot alike, but I don’t see it. His skin is a lot darker than mine, which I’ve always envied. Our hair is the same rich hue of brown, but our facial features are nothing alike, specifically our eyes. Mom used to tell us that if we put our eyes together, they would look just like a tree. His were as green as the leaves, and mine were as brown as the trunk.

I always envied that he got to be the leaves of the tree, because green was my favorite color growing up.

Corbin acknowledges Miles with a nod of his head. “Hey, man. Rough night?” He asks the question with a laugh, as he knows exactly what kind of night Miles had last night.

Miles walks past both of us. “I don’t know,” he says in response. “I don’t remember it.” He walks into the kitchen and opens a cabinet, retrieving a cup like he’s comfortable enough here to do so.

I don’t like that.

I don’t like comfortable Miles.

Comfortable Miles opens another cabinet and takes out a bottle of aspirin, fills his cup with water, and pops two of the aspirin into his mouth.

“Did you get all your stuff brought up?” Corbin asks me.

“Nope,” I say, glancing at Miles when I respond. “I was kind of preoccupied with your neighbor most of the night.”

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