"There's a quote that reminds me of you, from Dylan Thomas. My favorite poet."
"What is it?"
A slow smile warms its way across his mouth. He dips his head and whispers the quote against my lips. "'I have longed to move away but am afraid; Some life, yet unspent, might explode.'"
Wow. He's good. And he makes it even better by pressing his warm mouth to mine, holding my face in the palms of his hands. I reach up and thread my hands through his hair, allowing him to have complete control over the speed and intensity of this kiss. He keeps it soft and concise, and I imagine he kisses the same way he writes. Gentle strokes of the keys, each word thought through and completed with purpose.
He kisses me like he wants this kiss to be remembered. For which one of us, I don't know, but I allow him to take as much as he can from this kiss and I give him as much as I have. And it's perfect. Nice. Really Nice.
It's as if he really is my boyfriend and this is something we should be doing all the time. Which brings me back to the fact that being too comfortable can be a crutch. With kisses like these, I could see myself easily falling into Ben's life and forgetting how to live my own. Which is exactly why I need to follow through with this goodbye.
When the kiss finally breaks, he brushes the tip of his nose against mine. "Tell me something," he says. "On a scale of one to ten, how book-worthy was our first kiss?"
He has perfect comedic timing. I smile and nip at his bottom lip. "At least a seven."
He pulls back in shock. "Seriously? That's all I get? A seven?"
I shrug. "I've read some great first kisses."
He drops his head in mock regret. "I knew I should have waited. I could have made it a ten if I had a plan." He steps back, releasing me. "I should have taken you to the airport and then as soon as you got to security, I could have dramatically called out your name and run toward you in slow motion." He mimics the scene in slow motion, moving in place as he reaches an arm out toward me. "Faaallllooooon," he says in a long, drawn-out voice. "Dooon't Leeeave Meeeee!" I'm laughing hard when he stops acting out the scene and wraps his arms around my waist again.
"If you would have done it at the airport, it would have been at least an eight. Maybe a nine, depending on believability."
"A nine? That's it?" he says. "If that's a nine, what the hell could make it a ten?"
I think about that. What does make kissing scenes in books so great? I've read enough of them, I should know.
"Angst," I say. "Definitely need some angst to make it a ten."
He looks confused. "Why would angst make it a ten? Give me some examples."
I lean my head against the car and stare up at the sky as I think. "I don't know, it depends on the situation. Maybe the couple isn't allowed to be together, so the forbidden factor creates the angst. Or maybe they've been best friends for years and the unspoken attraction builds enough angst to make the kiss a ten. Sometimes infidelity creates good angst, depending on the characters and their situation."
"That's messed up," he says. "So you're saying if I were seeing another girl and I kissed you in the hallway like I did, it would have gone from a seven to a ten?"
"If you were seeing another girl, you would have never been inside my apartment to begin with." I suddenly stiffen at the thought. "Wait. You don't have a real girlfriend, do you?"
He shrugs. "If I did, would our next kiss be a ten?"
Oh, my God. Please don't say I just became the other woman.
He sees the fear on my face and he laughs. "Relax. You're the only girlfriend I have, and you're about to break up with me and move across the country." He leans in and kisses me on the side of my head. "Go easy on me, Fallon. My heart is fragile."
I press my head against his chest and even though I know he's kidding, part of me can't help but feel genuinely sad about saying goodbye to him. I read reviews a lot for the audiobooks I narrate, so I've seen the comments about how readers would do anything to make book boyfriends real. Here I am, convinced I'm standing in the arms of one, and I'm about to walk away from him.
"When is your first audition?"
He sure does have a lot of faith in me. "I haven't looked into it yet. Honestly, I'm kind of terrified to audition. I'm scared people will take one look at me and laugh."
"What's wrong with that?"
"With being laughed at?" I ask. "For one, it's humiliating. And it's a confidence killer."
He looks at me pointedly. "I hope they laugh at you, Fallon. If people are laughing at you, it means you're putting yourself out there to be laughed at. Not enough people have the courage to even take that step."
I'm glad it's dark, because I can feel my cheeks flush. He's always saying things that seem so simple, yet profound at the same time.
"You kind of remind me of my mother," I tell him.
"That's exactly what I was going for," he says sarcastically. He pulls me against his chest again and kisses me on top of the head. I need to get to the airport, but I try to stall it as long as possible because the looming goodbye is haunting me.
"You think we'll ever see each other again?"
His arms tighten around me. "I hope so. I would be lying if I said I'm not already plotting to hunt you down when you're twenty-three. But five years is a long time, Fallon. Who knows what could happen between now and then. Hell, I didn't even have hair on my nuts five years ago."
I laugh again, just like I've done with almost everything else he's said today. I don't know that I've ever genuinely laughed this much with one person.
"You really should write a book, Ben. A romantic comedy. You're kind of funny."
"The only way I'd be willing to write a romance novel is if you're one of the main characters. And me, of course." He pulls back and smiles down at me. "I'll make you a deal. If you promise to audition for Broadway, I'll write a book about the relationship we couldn't have thanks to distance and immaturity."
I wish he were serious, because I love that idea. If it weren't for the one glaring flaw. "We'll never see each other again, though. How would we know if the other stuck to the plan?"
"We hold each other accountable," he says.
"Again . . . we'll never see each other after tonight. And I can't give you my phone number."
I know better than to give him a way to contact me. There's too much I need to do on my own and if he had my phone number, my entire focus would be on what time each day he's supposed to call me.
Ben releases me and takes a step back, folding his arms across his chest. He begins to pace back and forth as he chews on his bottom lip. "What if . . ." He stops and faces me. "What if we meet up again next year on the same day? And the year after that? We'll do it for five years. Same date, same time, same place. We'll pick up where we left off tonight, but only for the day. I'll make sure you're following through with your auditions and I can write a book about the days we're together."
I let his words sink in for a moment. I try to match the serious look on his face, but the prospect of seeing him once a year fills me with anticipation and I'm doing my best not to act too giddy. "Meeting up once a year on the same date sounds like a really good basis for a romance novel. If you fictionalized our story, I'd add it to the top of my TBR."
Now he's smiling. So am I, because the thought of being able to look forward to today's date is something I never thought would happen. November 9th has been an anniversary I've dreaded since the night of the fire, and this is the first time the thought of that date leaves me with a positive feeling.
"I'm serious about this, Fallon. I'll start writing the damn book tonight if it means I'll get to see you next November."
"I'm serious, too," I say. "We'll meet every November 9th. Absolutely no contact in between, though."
"That's fair. November 9th or nothing. And we'll stop after five years?" he asks. "When we're both twenty-three?"
I nod, but I don't ask him what I'm sure we're both thinking. Which is what happens after the fifth year?
About the book:
Beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover returns with an unforgettable love story between a writer and his unexpected muse.
Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day before her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon's last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist.
Snippet from All Our Names
- Dinaw Mengestu
Snippet from Fates and Furies
- Lauren Groff