Chapter I

Two months, five days, fifteen hours. That's how long I've been single. Coincidentally, that's also how long I've spent trying to get Sam McClanahan out of my mind. It wasn't like I wanted to keep the memory of him hanging around forever - he was just some jerk who ended up liking his six-pack better than he liked me - but like a post-pubescent zit, thoughts of him just kept resurfacing no matter how hard I scrubbed.

Are… are you breaking up with me?

Yeah.

And that had been it. Eleven months thrown away with just one word. Yeah. It seemed to ricochet around in my mind just like it had back then. That one word had been the reason why, two months ago, I had fled Sam's apartment without a goodbye. And it was the reason why I wasn't now curled up in my warm bed at three o'clock in the morning, but was instead reminiscing and coasting down Iowa Street in my rollerblades and winter coat.

I gotta go, I remembered saying before opening his door.

Cassie, wait! I feel bad. At least let me make you some tacos - or something - to make it up to you.

I almost laughed at the memory. The dumb boy, he had really thought that tacos would have made it all better. He had just broken up with me. No, I didn't want any fucking tacos; I wanted my boyfriend back.

No, I should just go. I had taken only one step out the door before I turned back around. Actually, can I grab my alcohol?

Yeah, yeah. Of course. I'll get it for you.

Months later, my stomach still flipped as I recalled the way Sam's shirt had stretched across his shoulders as he reached for the top shelf of his kitchen cabinet. I missed that the most about him - the way he so effortlessly made me melt. I missed wrapping my arms around him from behind and burying my face between his shoulder blades. And I missed how he so casually picked me up and carried me from room to room.

The nostalgia hit me like a knife to my chest and I stuck my right foot out in front of me, skidded to a stop on the rollerblades, and rolled over to the edge of the street where I perched on the curb. I pulled my phone out of the back pocket of my jeans and opened up Facebook. 'S', I typed into the search bar and his name appeared first on the suggestion list. I tapped on his profile and there he was, exactly as I remembered. Sam McClanahan, with his radiant smile and deep chocolate eyes that never failed to stab me with a pang of remorse. It wasn't sadness, completely. I just missed him. It was as simple as that.

"Cassie, what the fuck are you doing?" I muttered to myself and immediately locked my phone. "Get a grip on yourself already." I had promised myself a week ago to stop checking his Facebook page. But despite that, I somehow still found his profile picture smiling up at me from my phone screen.

A cold November breeze picked up my hair and danced with it around my head. I shivered and tucked my nose into the collar of my coat. I was addicted, but I could always wait until morning to deal with it. The night wasn't young anymore, I realized as my mouth stretched open in a silent yawn, and I was far from my apartment. Reluctantly, I stood up and shoved my phone into my back pocket and began making my way back across campus.


"Cassie."

I jumped. Even as a whisper, it sounded loud and out of place compared to the complete stillness of the apartment.

"Oh hey, Kristie. What are you doing still up?"

My roommate leaned against the wall, just a silhouette in the dark hallway that led from the living room to our bedrooms.

"I was about to ask you the same thing," she asked, her voice still groggy from sleep.

I staggered across the room, trying to stay upright as my rollerblades threatened to slip on the carpeting until I got close enough to bail onto the couch.

"Shit, Kris. I hope I didn't wake you up." When I had come in, I tried my best to open and close the door as quietly as I could. Apparently, my efforts hadn't helped much. "I was just out rollerblading." I shrugged and held up my foot to prove my statement.

Kristie pushed herself off of the wall and sat down beside me on the armrest of the couch. "Again? Oh, hun, you're not still upset about the breakup, are you?"

"No, no. I just couldn't sleep. That's all," I said all too quickly.

Kristie raised her eyebrows, seeing straight through my lie. "Cassie…. You know you can talk to me about this, right? I know you're not over him, so just stop trying to hide it. You only go out rollerblading when you're missing-"

"I'm over him, I swear," I said, cutting Kristie off. "It's been two months."

"And that's exactly my point! It's been two months. That's way too long to be hung up over some stupid boy. You obviously need an intervention." Kristie leapt up from the couch and made her way into the kitchen where she rested her forearms on the bar that separated the two rooms. "Take off those rollerblades and have a seat. The Love Doctor is in," she said with a playful grin.

I groaned. "Come on, it's four in the morning. I was just about to go to bed. Can't this wait until tomorrow?"

"Nope. This intervention is happening right now. You've got an appointment and trust me, you can't miss it."

"Okay, fine." I unlaced my rollerblades and took a seat on a stool across the bar from Kristie.

"Miss Morrison… What brings you to my office today?" Kristie pretended to look through a stack of imaginary papers. I couldn't help but to crack a smile. This wasn't the first time she played doctor. She always did it to get talk out of our roommates and for the most part, it worked. There was just something about the ridiculousness of her whole act that made us all roll our eyes and then spill the truth.

"I have written down here that during your last visit," Kristie pretended to peer over a pair of glasses, "hmm… you were having trouble moving on from your ex-boyfriend? Is that correct?"

I nodded.

"And is this problem still occuring?"

I paused for a few moments and my smile fell. "Yeah," I admitted.

Kristie beamed. "See? The Love Doctor always knows." She clapped her hands once. "So. How are we going to fix this?"

I crossed my arms. "And there's your problem."

"It's really not much of a problem. You've just got to get your mind off of him."

"I know. I tried. It didn't work. So tell me something I don't know, like how to actually do that."

"You could study like…" Kristie snapped her fingers, "what's her name? That girl from Legally Blonde."

"Elle Woods?"

"Yes! Elle Woods! You could do what she did and focus on your studies."

I rolled my eyes. "You know that she only did all of that for a guy, right? And besides, any more studying would send me into some kind of constant depression."

"Okay. Not that. Try finding a hobby?"

"I already have a hobby: rollerblading."

"Maybe another hobby?"

I shook my head. "Not a chance."

"Alright. Suit yourself. But how about you come out with us girls for once?"

I buried my face in my hands. "I really don't think any of that is going to work. I mean, sure it will help for a bit, but whenever I have any down time, I'll just start missing him again." I sighed. "I'm starting to think that time won't even help me get over this. It's been two months. I'm just destined to be miserably single for the rest of my life."

"You know what I think you need?" Kristie said after a while. "You need to get another boyfriend."

"I need to do what?"

"Think about it - the only way to get over a guy is to actually get over him."

I tilted my head, not sure what Kristie was trying to get at.

"Have you ever heard the phrase, 'fake it 'til you make it'?" Kristie continued. "That's what you've gotta do. Get a new boyfriend, pretend like you're over Sam, and before you know it you will actually be over him."

"Genius." My voice dripped with sarcasm. "I'll just open my door and pick one from the line of eligible men waiting outside for me." I forced a laugh. "Ha. Ha. Oh wait…."

Kristie rolled her eyes waved a hand through the air. "You just gotta put yourself out there, Cassie. Do what you've done before."

"So eat dinner by myself in the dorm dining halls and just wait for some guy to sit down and eat with me?" I snorted. "We're not freshmen anymore. It's a lot harder to meet boys than it was last year"

"No it's not. Come out with me and we'll find a cute guy at the bar for you. Or you could give your number to that cute barista at Espresso Royale. Hell, you could even put your number on a balloon and hope it lands in the right hands for all it matters. Just do something at least. Take a chance! Put yourself out there! It's not that hard." Kristie crossed her arms. "Besides, you can't ignore Doctor's orders."

I rolled my eyes. "Just go to bed already, Kris."

"Yeah, I guess it's getting pretty late," she admitted. '4:22' glowed on the microwave clock in bright red letters. "I'll go to bed, but only if you promise me that you're not going to stay up for the rest of the night thinking about Sam."

"I promise."

"Pinky promise?" Kristie held up her little finger and I linked ours together.

"Yeah."

"Alright. The follow-up appointment will be scheduled for next week. Goodnight, Cassie."

"G'night, Kristie."

"Love Doctor out." She gave me a small salute before finally leaving me alone in the kitchen.

I picked up a pen from the bar and twirled it between my fingers, lightly tapping it on the countertop as I mulled over what Kristie had just advised me to do. It seemed like sound advice to find another boy to replace Sam. He had left a hole in my life - I needed to fill it in. But Kristie had made it sound so simple to find another guy, as if it was something you just did. I knew it wouldn't be so simple. Maybe somebody else could make it happen without a problem, but let's face it - I wasn't even close to being that kind of girl. I didn't have dazzling blue eyes or a killer figure. Hell, I couldn't even conjure up an inch of cleavage if I tried. All I had to work with was an ordinary set of brown eyes and brown hair, a forehead which was slightly too long, a stick-like body, and a runaway mouth with little to no filter.

Seriously, dating a guy like Sam must have been a fluke.

If only the number in a balloon trick that Kristie had mentioned actually worked, my life would be infinitely easier. I wished I could just send for a guy and have him magically appear. Then my gaze dropped to the pen that I still absentmindedly tapped the counter with. I unscrewed the body and slid out the ink cannister. Maybe what I needed was a message in a bottle - or a message in a pen, in my case. I slid off the stool and ran into my bedroom. My Engineering Materials notebook lay on my bed and I flipped to the very back page and tore off a small piece of paper. In miniscule print, I wrote down my number and then wrapped it around the ink cannister, using a small piece of tape to hold it in place. I held the reassembled pen out in front of me, admiring my handiwork but then immediately dropped my hand.

This whole thing was ridiculous. Putting my number on a pen and hoping that someone would call me? That was shit that crazy chicks did. Crazy desperate chicks. I planned on leaving the pen on the sidewalk outside my apartment where it would be nothing but trash to anyone who walked by. Looking at the numbers, out of the approximately 42,000 students here at the University of Illinois, maybe 2,000 walk past my apartment each day. Out of that 2,000, approximately 1,000 are guys and 250 are single guys who are willing to date. Subtracting the quarter of that number which are freshmen (as a Sophomore, I refuse to hook up in a dorm room), that leaves me with 62 guys who I may or may not even be compatible with. Besides, no one would have any reason to pick up a stray pen on the sidewalk, much less unscrew the body to find the note and then actually text the number.

The odds were simply against me.

At the same time, if no one was going to find my note, then it made no difference whether I dropped the pen on the sidewalk or in the trash. And I didn't have to tell a soul about how desperate of a move I was making. I had nothing to lose. With that logic, I made my way across the apartment and out through a set of sliding glass doors onto the balcony. This was ridiculous. I was completely out of my mind. But I shrugged it off and tossed the pen over the rail anyway. It dropped straight down onto the sidewalk below where it bounced once, twice, three times on the concrete before rolling to a stop.

And that was it.

"Anticlimatic as fuck," I muttered before turning my back on the pen. Its fate was up to chance now.