However, I've learned that the heart can't be told when and who and how it should love. The heart does whatever the hell it wants to do. The only thing we can control is whether we give our lives and our minds the chance to catch up to our hearts.
- Colleen Hoover

Chapter Sixteen: The Showdown

Okay. I am here. At Harvard and can I just admit something, Mr. A? I feel kind of like an idiot around all these smart people. I just walked past a couple of students debating foreign policy and I had no idea what they were talking about, what's going on in the world, or why two of them seemed like they were ready to tear each others throats out – I just knew that the entire conversation made me feel like not only should I know, but that I was an idiot for not knowing.

Perhaps the idiot Roth thinks me as?

...Gotta shake it off.

Also, surprisingly in contradiction to TV shows, it's actually kind of hard to find a student when you don't belong on campus. Especially since there was no one in any of the offices I had dropped by in vague hopes that a wonderful receptionist would send me on my way with sage words and candy. Nope, it was early morning Sunday by the time I made it to Roth's neck of the country and school hadn't started after break yet. The students were trickling back for classes on Monday, but there was no one in the office to guide them.

Which makes sense, since: college.

I walked around campus in a state of confusion for an hour before I stumbled across the science block and realized that I might be able to locate Roth by figuring out where the psychology classes were held – surely some psychology nerds would be hanging around, right?

You don't have to answer because the answer was: yes. I found a nice guy named Bryant who knew who Roth was and had been willing to walk me to his dorm once I explained that I was a childhood friend. I...think he might have been flirting with me, but I have no idea why – I'm a high school student. And weird. And obviously exhausted and rumbled from way too long on a bus. Whatever the case, I was happy when he left me in front of Roth's dorm and then went on his way.

...Okay, I told him that I had a boyfriend. What? I had to get rid of him, he was getting weird.

Anyway, once I took a moment to gather myself, I knocked on the door and waited for a really tense moment. But it wasn't Roth to answered the door, it was his roommate and friend Daniel. I think he's the roommate that Roth had kind of mentioned before – or at least mentioned his girlfriend.

Daniel seemed like a nice guy, though his first reaction to me telling him my name was to ask me to repeat it about three times, and then he'd started laughing.

"You're Tameka Janelle?"

"Um...yeah." I grimaced. "Has he been saying terrible things about me?"

"Terrible? God, no." He'd replied with a smile and then offered to find Roth for me. Roth had apparently left just minutes before I arrived, he'd planned on borrowing Daniel's car for something – Daniel figured he was going to go see Mrs. Chavez – but had forgotten to take the keys. He'd been just about to go find him when I showed up. And just like that, I had a blond and blue eyed hunk (the kind of guy that I'd usually be too tongue-tied to talk to) as an escort to hunt down my quarry.

Though seriously, the man wouldn't stop looking at me and grinning like a loon. It had me sure that Roth had told him all about my idiocy or at least my weirdness.

I'll be completely honest Mr. Abernathy, I had no idea what I wanted to say to him. I planned this whole escape: I'd done all the calculations on how much time it would take to get to Harvard and how long I'd have to get back before missing any more days of school, I'd gone to the bank and got as much money out as I thought I would need, I'd even bought mace – but I hadn't thought of a single thing to actually say to Roth once I was face to face with him. I'd kinda hoped the words would just come; he's a lot of things, but deep down I've never really found him hard to talk to. Perhaps it was hard to broach some subjects with him, but once I had, he was always one of the easiest people in my life to talk to. Honestly, the only other person easier to talk to is Aunt Trish...and I guess, judging from how long this journal is getting (I'm already pages into the journal that Roth gave me), you. Yet, if I were to ever to rank the three of you, Roth would always be first.

He's just always been first.

No offense.

My point is, the moment Daniel led me to Roth and my eyes clapped onto him (he had been tugging on the handle to the car and had just thrown his shoulders back to glare up at the heavens), I had no idea what to say. The words just fled, because...because for some reason the sight of him made me angry. Really angry. Roth's eyes had widened the moment he brought his head back down and saw me, but before he could say anything in greeting – before Daniel could even say anything, and the guy's mouth was already open to make some kind of comment – I walked up to him and shoved him. Hard. He fell back against the car, looking pretty surprised.

"Tameka Janelle?"

"Whoa, calm down!"

Roth's eyes connected with Daniel's at that and he frowned, "You can go now."

"I'm just trying to help you out – "

Ignoring both of them, I had stepped back, straightened my coat, and turned to leave. I've never been so angry before, Mr. A, and I had no idea what I was doing. Writing it down, I can see that spending all the money and time – as well as waiting for my then future grounding – on getting to Roth to just walk away was a bit ridiculous. However, at the time I wasn't thinking, I was just feeling and I felt a bit like I wanted to do him more violence. So I turned around and shoved him again while he and his roommate were arguing about whether or not Roth needed his help against a girl. That time Roth's back hit the car so hard that the car alarm went off.

"What is your problem?" Daniel asked as he hit a button on his key fob, silencing the alarm.

"She's mad at me. Obviously." Roth answered, his tone so dry it was nearly brittle.

"What did you do?"

Roth sighed and finally took his eyes off me, "Daniel, what part of this situation feels like it should involve more than just two people?"

His roommate rolled his eyes and held his hands up in the air, "Whatever, I'm out." He tossed his keys to Roth, "You forgot these, by the way."

Roth caught the keys and then turned his gaze back to me. "Tameka Janelle, what are you doing here?" He asked, taking a step closer to me and ignoring the fact that I immediately took a step back. I was still ready to just walk away from him and forget about all of it. I wanted an apology for the way he had treated me over Christmas break and for the things he had said to me in that room, but it was Roth – he doesn't apologize. Has never seen the need to, because all he ever does is tell the truth, why apologize for that?


"What are you doing here?" I bit back, once again being my mature self.

"I go to school here." He replied.

"What are you doing here without having even said a goodbye?" I asked and then closed my eyes and took a deep breath. When I get really angry Mr. A, I start crying. When I'm sad and cry I can seem to still make sense when I'm talking, but angry + crying somehow leads to me being completely incomprehensible. I knew I needed to calm down if I wanted him to understand why I was so angry. How my main objective became that instead of telling him that I loved him was a little confusing, but it was what it was.

When I opened my eyes he was a few steps closer to me, his eyes completely guarded. "I'm nearly positive that I did say goodbye."

My eyes narrowed. "You mean after you called me an idiot? That 'bye' you casually tossed at me before storming out of the room? Because that doesn't count. That in no way informed me that you were going to pack your bags and head back to school the next day. That wasn't a goodbye, that didn't convey any kind of finality."

"Why does it matter so much whether or not I said goodbye?" He asked, sounding a bit irritated. I couldn't help but think that that hadn't taken long; I was barely around him ten minutes and he was already getting mad.

I glared at him and tears immediately rushed to my eyes. "Really?" I asked softly, "You can't think of why it would matter?"

He stared at me for a long moment and I could actually see when it dawned on him. "You never talk about it." He replied, his voice gentle.

I rolled my eyes and wiped at a tears that fell. "She doesn't say goodbye because it's never really a goodbye, but it doesn't change the fact that Mom comes to town and then leaves for years at a time. I like my goodbyes, okay? I like to know when someone isn't going to be around, I like to be able to prepare myself for that instead of it always being sprung on me. And how dare you, how dare you do that to me again."

He frowned, "Again?"

I laughed, but it stopped short on what felt (and perhaps sounded a bit like) a sob. "You left a semester early for college and you didn't even tell me that that was what you were going to do. You were just...gone. And then you didn't come back for the summer you know how awful this year has been?"

"You had Robbie."

And then I was back to glaring at him, Mr. A. Honestly, he can be quite mean and shortsighted. At that point, I didn't even want to tell him how I felt anymore. Because...because he'd probably just laugh in my face or say something so mean it would devastate me. Yeah, Roth makes me feel safe and secure, but that doesn't change the fact that I've never been completely vulnerable with him. And how could I? He practically demands that you have a defensive wall in place by the way he talks to people. I realize that I love him and I understand that that means that I'm going to need to be vulnerable with him and believe that he won't hurt me...but at that moment I couldn't see myself ever being that brave. Not with Roth.

I'm not kidding Mr. A, in that moment I was ready to give up on him. I was ready to write off my first love (or is it second love? The thing with Robbie was kind of a distraction towards what I've felt for Roth for quite some time. But I was convinced that I loved him, so does that make Roth my second love? I guess Robbie was kind of an infatuation, whereas with Roth I've loved him even when he's been a complete jerk to me. Even when he's been I guess I was right the first time, he's my first love) as a painful learning experience and to use it as such. He didn't need to know why I was cutting off all ties with him, just that I was.

How could those three words even come from his mouth?

"Robbie calls me his best friend and then ignores me in the hallways. He tells everyone that I've been his friend since diapers, but then doesn't make time for me during the day. He does all the right things and yet I'm still alone. Always alone." I said, "Didn't you ever wonder why I would always seek you out during the day? Why I always ate with you?"

He was silent, thank goodness.

And I think it was because of his silence that I chanced it a bit. I decided to admit it without really admitting it.

"I came here to tell you that I'm in love with my best friend—" I started, only for his face to fill with disgust and his eyes to narrow.

"Are you freaking—" he didn't say freaking "—kidding me? You're back to that shit? What the hell, Jane? What does he have to do to get you to open your freaking—" yeah...again, he didn't say freaking, Mr. A... "—eyes and realize that he's not good enough for you? Robbie is not the kind of guy you should want."

"And you get to dictate what kind of guy I should want?" I bit back, back to glaring at him. It seriously wasn't going the way I had imagined it...although, the way I had imagined it had come with it's own soundtrack and back-lighting, so I guess I should have been prepared to be disappointed.

"It should be obvious that it shouldn't be him!" He shot back, "He doesn't even see you as female, Jane!"

At the beginning of this vacation that would have really stung, but even then I could remember sitting in the Gonzalez kitchen and the way Roth had said that he had always seen me as a female. Even if I'm not her, he has always seen me as more than some sexless neighbor. The fact that Robbie sees me as sexless doesn't even matter, but that didn't change the fact that he was trying to purposely hurt me with that knowledge. Which just made me all the angrier.

"I wasn't even talking about that, jerk!" I snapped, "I thought I could share something with you, even though you don't even care about me enough to say goodbye! You're my best friend and you have no problem just leaving me without saying anything! You never even contacted me while you were at school – what was that about? You couldn't send one lousy email?"

He was glaring at me now, "I had my reasons for that and since when am I your best fri...end." He trailed off and his eyes slowly widened from their narrowed state.

"Reasons? What could those possibly be? It could have been as short as just saying 'hi', just letting me know that you hadn't fallen off the face of the earth. You had no trouble keeping in contact with Robbie – and after watching the two of you grow up together, I couldn't figure that one out. You had the time to let him know how classes were going and you didn't have that kind of time for me? God, Roth! There are so many ways you could keep in contact with me and you didn't even try one!"

At that point he was just staring at me silently and I swear to you Mr. A, he was biting back a smile! I wanted to shove him all over again, or perhaps slap him like I had done weeks ago.

"This is not funny!"

He shook his head. "No, it's not."

"So stop smiling!"

He shook his head once more. "No, I can't."

I frowned and then just glared at him. "I don't know what is going on in your head, but I came to tell you that—" I faltered and took a deep breath, "That—" It just wasn't coming out, so I groaned and glared up into the sky. "I'm here to tell you that I'm cutting off all ties with you." I nodded my head and lowered it to look at him once more. "You don't get to make me feel like you did in your bedroom again. No, I refuse."

He looked stricken for a moment, taking several steps towards me before halting. "I..." He trailed off, cleared his throat, and tried again. "I'm..."

"I can't listen to you spin this." I said, once he trailed off into silence once again. "You've obviously never thought as much of me as I have of you. I'm just an idiot to you, one that you can toss aside so easily.'s for the best that we stop here. And obviously it'll be easy for you to move on—"

"I'm sorry." He cut in, effectively silencing me. Because...I've mentioned that Roth doesn't apologize right? He's not the type. Yet he had actually said the words to me – it was momentous enough for me to actually be knocked off center. Of which he took advantage. "I'm sorry. I...should have realized that you would be hurt... No, I knew you'd be hurt. I should have realized how you'd be hurt. I..." He rubbed the back of his neck, "I've actually prided myself on how much I know you, and I didn't think...I didn't think about your mother. I didn't think about anything but me."

He turned his eyes back on me. "I didn't say goodbye because you are my hardest goodbye."

That knocked the breath out of me. "What?" I whispered.

"You are so hard a goodbye that I tend to just...not leave. Every summer I told myself I was going to go off to some camp, go learn something and get away from my family. Every summer I couldn't say goodbye, so I just...didn't."

"I don't understand what you mean."

"I wouldn't have left. If I had said goodbye to you, I would have taken one look at you and decided that I didn't really need to go a semester early. I could just push it back. I knew that, so I left without telling you. So I didn't come home during summer break...I didn't come home during any of the breaks. Leaving once was hard enough, I didn't want to deal with it again."

"But you left without saying goodbye again."

"I was angry. It helped." He shrugged his shoulders and then looked away from me, his eyes falling on anything and everything that wasn't me. "Don't cut off ties with me."

"What you said in that room really hurt, Roth. You were cruel."

He squeezed his eyes shut and nodded his head. "It's haunted me."

"Why'd you do it? If you care enough about me to have trouble saying goodbye, then why—"

"—because you're her."

Confused, I frowned. "Who?"

He opened his eyes only to roll them and muttered something under his breath. Then he turned his intense gaze back my way. "Because you're her, Tameka Janelle. Because you refuse to see it, to understand it – because you're blind to me. Because you told me that my kissing you didn't have to mean anything, when it meant everything."

My breath caught and tears came to my eyes.


I'm the girl he's been waiting for? The girl he's loved for years? The one that he finds nice, beautiful, and has made him feel good about himself? I'm her?

"And I could never say anything." He went on, his voice raising. "Because I had you convinced that you loved my brother and because you're so loyal you wouldn't give up that belief. And because if I said anything, it could ruin everything." His voice dropped with the last four words, his breathing heavy. "I wasn't a big enough part of your life, at least I didn't think I was, for you to still seek me out if you knew how I felt. Why would you still spend time with me if you knew it meant more to me than you?"

I shook my head, this time I was the one stepping closer to him. "No, you're my best friend – of course I want you in my life."

He nodded and then a slow, beautiful smile spread across his face – and he caught my arms before I could make a dive towards the ground. Making me think that he had somehow figured out what was making my legs go weak. "And you're in love with your best friend."

I admit I almost asked him how he knew, when I remember his reaction before – that smile he'd been trying to bite back. Which was probably the only reason why he had said any of the things he'd said...

...Which kind of meant I was braver than him. Me. Girl that called him over to save her from fictional monsters – I was braver than him.

I seriously think that if I'd been walking right then, Mr. A, I'd have been swaggering.

"Yes." I answered, "I'm in love with my best friend."

His eyes dropped to my mouth and he took another step closer, until we were practically standing on top of each other. "And how long have you known?"

"I-I'd been slowly figuring it out all winter break." I said softly, my eyes drifting to his lips. "But I knew, I really knew, that night I kissed you in your sleep."

Which still sounds really creepy. Even if the feelings are apparently mutual.

His mouth stretched into a smile. "I'll admit I wondered."

"I told you in the car, when we went to pick up Robbie."

"I thought I was just imagining that." He said softly, beginning to lean his head down. "I'd hoped, but figured I'd heard you wrong."

So he had heard. He just didn't believe it.

"How long have you known?" I asked, breathless with my anticipation of his kiss.

He stopped just inches from my mouth, his words a hot breath on my lips. "Seven years."

My eyes widened, "Seven years?"

He nodded, "You showed up at my piano recital, one I'd been telling my parents and Robbie about for months, just hoping they'd show. I think you walked in the room one day when I was reminding them once, but you were the only one that showed. Showed with a cookie bouquet even." He laughed, and the memory came back to me: I'd saved my allowance for two weeks in order to buy that bouquet and the bus fare to get to his recital.

And it had been beautiful: he played Beethoven's Ode to Joy, which has been my favorite work ever since. It was the first time I ever saw Roth play, but not the last. I was there for his whole Beethoven stage, then his Mozart stage and then, finally, onto his discovery and love of Tchaikovsky. I had heard so many beautiful pieces all brought forth from his fingertips, but Ode to Joy will always be my favorite. Because it was the first time I realized that Roth was capable of creating something heartrendingly beautiful. That he was capable of the passion to create something so beautiful, that that passion was just carefully buried beneath a lot of sarcasm, quips, and insults.

But that it was always there.

"You came to every single recital after that. Regardless of whether or not I mentioned it to you. I'd always check the audience for you, convinced it'd be the time you missed."

I had never missed another recital.

He played until he graduated from high school.

"You never did." He whispered and then his mouth was on mine and it was heaven. More so this time because I knew, knew that he had thought out the kiss. That he had worked out the logistics, that he was kissing me with all the passion he had for me. Had stored up for me. When his kisses trailed off to the side of my face and then my neck, I knew that these were places that he had always imagined kissing me before.

And seriously? That was hot.

His kisses trailed back to my mouth and he cupped either side of my face as he intensified the kiss. His tongue mingling with mine, I found that I had to grab onto him to keep myself steady. I felt boneless and my heart was racing – I'm not sure of the signs of fainting, so I figured gripping him by his shirt was a good idea.

Also, I got to feel that hard strength again by doing so.

Far too soon, he stopped kissing me for lack of air, and pressed his forehead against mine. "God, to kiss you." He breathed and I smiled, my eyes still closed in bliss.


"I've only wanted to do it forever."

I laughed and looped my arms around his neck, this time kissing him. He met my lips eagerly and I hoped that being kissed by me was as much a rush as being kissed by him. Because his kiss was magical and if I'm the girl he's been waiting for, I hope mine was just as magical.

Roth just stole this journal and looked over the last entry: apparently my kiss is a dream come true, my being near him and him knowing that I want to be near him is a dream come true. He said this with a really dopey and beautiful smile on his face, by the way.

I just wanted you to know.

Also, I think I may have twisted my ankle.

He's really smiling a lot.

A/N: I already miss them. No, seriously: I already miss them. I think I could have written a thousand more words on them just being cute together, but I managed to stop myself. (Not going to lie, it was hard, in fact I'm writing this right now to keep myself from writing more and more kisses and lovey-dovey scenes.

I hope it was a fun ride, I'm sorry that it took so long.