She ducked her head and winced when I said that. She shook her head again and said, “It’s not like that, Lily. We’re married, and sometimes marriage is just . . . you’re too young to understand it.”

It got really quiet for a minute, and then I said. “I hope to hell I never do.”


That’s when she started to cry. She just held her head in her hands and she started to sob and all I could do was wrap my arms around her and cry with her. I’d never seen her this upset. Or this hurt. Or this scared. It broke my heart, Ellen.

It broke me.

When she was finished crying, I looked around the room and Atlas had left. We went to the kitchen and I helped her clean up her lip and her eye. She never did say anything about him being there. Not one thing. I waited for her to tell me I was grounded, but she never did. I realized that maybe she didn’t acknowledge it because that’s what she does. Things that hurt her just get swept under the rug, never to be brought up again.


Dear Ellen,

I think I’m ready to talk about Boston now.

He left today.

I’ve shuffled my deck of cards so many times, my hands hurt. I’m scared if I don’t get out how I feel on paper, I’ll go crazy holding it all in.

Our last night didn’t go over so well. We kissed a lot at first, but we were both too sad to really care about it. For the second time in two days, he told me he changed his mind and that he wasn’t leaving. He didn’t want to leave me alone in this house. But I’ve lived with these parents for almost sixteen years. It was silly of him to turn down a home in favor of being homeless, just because of me. We both knew that, but it still hurt.

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I tried to not be so sad about it, so when we were lying there, I asked him to tell me about Boston. I told him maybe one day when I got out of school, I could go there.

He got this look in his eye when he started talking about it. A look I’d never seen. Sort of like he was talking about heaven. He told me about how everyone has the greatest accents there. Instead of car, they say cah. He must not realize that he sometimes says his r’s like that, too. He said he lived there from the ages of nine until he was fourteen, so I guess maybe he picked up a little bit of the accent.

He told me about how his uncle lives in an apartment building with the coolest rooftop deck.

“A lot of apartments have them,” he said. “Some even have pools.”

Plethora, Maine, probably didn’t even have a building that was tall enough for a rooftop deck. I wondered what it would feel like to be that high up. I asked him if he ever went up there and he said yes. That when he was younger, sometimes he would go to the roof and just sit up there and think while he looked out over the city.

He told me about the food. I already knew he liked to cook but I had no idea how much passion he had for it. I guess because he doesn’t have a stove or a kitchen, so other than the cookies he baked me, he’s never really talked about cooking before.

He told me about the harbor and how, before his mother remarried, she used to take him fishing out there. “I mean, Boston isn’t any different from any other big city, I guess,” he said. “There’s not a lot that makes it stand out. It’s just . . . I don’t know. There’s a vibe. A really good energy. When people say they live in Boston, they’re proud of it. I miss that sometimes.”

I ran my fingers through his hair and said, “Well, you make it sound like the best place in the world. Like everything is better in Boston.”

He looked at me and his eyes were sad when he said. “Everything is almost better in Boston. Except the girls. Boston doesn’t have you.”

That made me blush. He kissed me real sweet and then I said to him, “Boston doesn’t have me yet. Someday I’ll move there and I’ll find you.”

He made me promise. Said if I moved to Boston, everything really would be better there and it would be the best city in the world.

We kissed some more. And did other things that I won’t bore you with. Although, that’s not to say they were boring.

They were not.

But then this morning I had to tell him goodbye. And he held me and kissed me so much, I thought I might die if he let go.

But I didn’t die. Because he let go and here I am. Still living. Still breathing.

Just barely.


I flip to the next page, but then slam the book shut. There’s only one more entry and I don’t know that I really feel like reading it right now. Or ever. I put the journal back in my closet, knowing that my chapter with Atlas is over. He’s happy now.

I’m happy now.

Time can definitely heal all wounds.

Or at least most of them.

I turn off my lamp and then pick up my phone to plug it in. I have two missed text messages from Ryle and one from my mother.

Ryle: Hey. Naked Truth commencing in 3 . . . 2 . . .

Ryle: I was worried that being in a relationship would add to my responsibilities. That’s why I’ve avoided them my whole life. I already have enough on my plate, and seeing the stress my parents’ marriage seemed to cause them, and the failed marriages of some of my friends, I wanted no part in something like that. But after tonight, I realized that maybe a lot of people are just doing it wrong. Because what’s happening between us doesn’t feel like a responsibility. It feels like a reward. And I’ll fall asleep wondering what I did to deserve it.

I pull my phone to my chest and smile. Then I screen-shot the text because I’m keeping it forever. I open up the third text message.

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