Hey Sir,
I’d imagine that Siobhan doesn’t love a random interruption from me, and I apologize — by the way, she seems great, no sarcasm — but I just wanted you to know that the more I date, the more I realize how special you are. The anger melts as I come to see that we weren’t cruel to each other at all. We just … Well, you know what happened.
Be good,

She waited all weekend for a response. She even drafted a “no need to respond” note that ended with “but you can totally respond,” but before she could send it he wrote back something so brief, so impenetrable and so… so… so… Well, she almost wished he’d just let her hang.

Thx (and other x’s, too)

On the bus ride to work she repeated it to herself. Matt lived for a linguistic trick, but Thx (and other x’s too) was not among his most skilled offerings.

She had spent the last two years alternately falling quickly and deeply for men she didn’t know and wallowing in Matthew like she was a professional mourner. Ally had gotten to the part where she was carefully analyzing his girlfriend’s face and body (oh, the shame) when she got a text from Caz: “please remember dinner at Meg’s tonight — she took you seriously when you said all you wanted was a really good roast chicken and mashed potatoes, and she’s been practicing. Bring white wine. PS It’s okay, we all run naked down the street sometimes.”

By the time she reached the office of Green and Greene, Ally had almost calmed herself. But she knew the moment she opened the door, she would be accosted by her well-meaning but Chihuahua-level excitable office-mate, Amber-Leigh, who had recently come to the conclusion that 5G WiFi was responsible for all auto-immune disease. So she took a breath, then two. Inhale on Thx. Exhale on and other x’s, too.

But when she reached her office (small but sun-drenched and with a view of the La Brea tar pits) it wasn’t Amber she found. It was Hugo.

“Hey” he said, sliding his Wayfarers into his sandy, “boy-in-a-John-Hughes movie” hair.

“Hey, Hugo. Uh…”

“What am I doing in your office?” He motioned to Ally’s store of gummy worms, which he was already destroying. “Long story short, Amber-Leigh was fired. Turns out telling your bosses at an environmental advocacy law firm that they’re complicit in the destruction of the rainforest by using 5G is not the hottest move — her trail of Reddit rants was long. So, they’ve moved me in with you. I’ll just be quietly writing the scintillating firm newsletter beside you.”

Ally tensed. Amber-Leigh may have been a Chatty Cathy with a propensity for conspiracy theories, but at least she was easy to ignore. Hugo was everything Ally found hard to ignore: a witty, goofy-handsome, slightly hostile, human male. She had noticed him in staff meetings, sticking his hand up like he was the valedictorian. Plus, unlike Amber-Leigh, he might actually notice that Ally was spending her days in a different fashion than what she was actually being paid for. Her job was technically to read endless scientific studies pertaining to the firm’s various cases (if you wanted to know anything about home insurance in eroding coastal Florida, Ally was your girl). Instead she used her gift for speed-reading to brutally skim documents, taking stilted notes, then dive into her passion project — a book (was it a book? Did she dare call her scribbles that?) about an anxious, naïve Cuban/Bostonian finding herself in France at age eighteen and learning everything. Learning too much. Becoming someone she never intended to be. Finding a new home. Losing it. Chasing it with no pants on.

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