Love, Life, and the List(10)

By: Kasie West



“I know of you,” Elliot said. “You’re Cooper Wells. We’ve just never met before.”

“Now we have,” Cooper said.

I analyzed the two of them as they spoke. Elliot was cute, but in the nearly exact opposite way as Cooper. Where Cooper’s eyes were blue, Elliot’s were brown. Cooper’s hair blond, Elliot’s curls were nearly black. Cooper was tall and muscular, Elliot was lean and an average height. The differences were so noticeable seeing them side by side like this.

“I think we’re ready to order,” Mr. Wells said, pulling my attention back to the moment.

Elliot straightened up. “Oh, your waiter will be right here. I’m just a host. I’ll grab you some waters.” He smiled at me. “I’ll be right back.”

As he walked away, Cooper said, “You should take Abby out.”

I gasped.

Elliot turned back. “What?”

“Nothing. Ignore him,” I said. Cooper fancied himself a matchmaker at times. He was not good at it.

Once Elliot left the table I shot Cooper my meanest look.

“Sorry,” he said. “But that guy has a crush on you. It was obvious. I was trying to help him out.”

“You can never just let me do my own flirting, can you?”

“Were you going to flirt? Because it was looking pretty questionable.”

I wasn’t going to flirt. I had no interest in Elliot or any other guy right now. I had just gotten horrible news about my art and my heart still picked up speed when Cooper smiled at me. I was not in the proper emotional place to be dating.

I ignored Cooper’s super-sarcastic question by asking a question of my own. “Have you heard from Justin?”

He pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of a halfway-finished stone wall. “Did he send you this text?”

“No. Why is he not sending me texts?” I read the words he had sent with the picture. Working on a schoolhouse for the local children. I could picture Justin there, speaking Spanish, the language he spoke all the time at home, and playing with the kids.

I pulled out my own phone and sent a text to Justin. Where are my update pics, punk?

“Ah. I’m sure that will inspire immediate obedience,” Cooper said, reading over my shoulder.

“I’ll be equally happy with obedience or guilt.”

Cooper chuckled.

Elliot came back with our waters, followed by the waiter, who took our orders.

“How is your art going?” Mr. Wells asked from across the table as soon as the waiter left.

“It’s good.”

“Will you paint something for me?” Cooper’s sister asked.

“Of course,” I said at the same time his mom said, “No, that’s not polite to ask, Amelia.”

“Why not?” Amelia asked.

“Because Abby doesn’t have time for that.”

“It’s true, Amelia,” Cooper said, reaching behind me to tug on his sister’s hair. “Abby wants to paint five brand-new pieces for an art show she’s going to be a part of in six weeks.”

“No, I don’t,” I said.

“Yes, that’s what you said to me. You said none of the pieces you already had were good enough.”

“They aren’t,” I said. “Can we not talk about this right now?”

“I completely disagree. They’re amazing. But whatever, you’re stubborn, so you’ll paint new ones.”

“I won’t,” I said.

“So are you going to use some you already painted? Which ones?”

“No.”

Now he was confused. I could tell. “You can’t both paint and not paint,” he said.

“There is no show.”

“He canceled it?”

“For me. There is no show for me.”

“I thought he was considering. He’ll say yes.”

“He said no.”

“Oh.” His smile immediately slid off his face.

“Yeah. But whatever, it’s not a big deal. I’ll find another show.” I could feel my cheeks go hot and I wanted to move on as fast as possible. I pulled my water glass close and took a long drink.

His parents looked at each other and then back at me. One of them was about to ask a follow-up question to clarify what I meant. Or say something like, but it is a big deal, or but your work should be in the show. His dad even cleared his throat, getting ready for whatever was coming next. I knew if he said one more word about it I’d break down in tears before the sentence was through. The tears were already threatening, clinging to the backs of my eyes, causing them to sting.

That’s when Cooper said, “You’re right, it’s not a big deal.” He squeezed my knee once, under the table, then dropped his hand. “Tell me I wasn’t awesome today out there on the dunes?”

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