Tonight the Streets Are Ours / Page 59

Page 59


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Seeing the book in his hands gave her a flash of inspiration. Without saying a word to Lindsey, Arden ran back to the poetry section and scanned the shelf desperately.

There it was.

She grabbed a book, bypassed Lindsey, and headed straight for Peter.

Her heart was pounding.

She stood right in front of him.

She set the book down on the counter.

Peter put down his copy of the Inferno and gave Arden a polite smile. “Will that be all today?” he asked.

She nodded mutely.

He took her book and moved to scan it, but then—because he was Peter, and she knew he couldn’t work cash registers without commenting on a customer’s purchase, he never managed to stop that, no matter how many book buyers he offended—he smiled and blurted out, “Sonnets from the Portuguese. Good choice. I love Elizabeth Barrett Browning. ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways—’”

“‘I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach,’” Arden finished.

They looked at each other. He raised an approving eyebrow. “You know it.”

Only because of you, she thought.

He scanned the bar code and bagged the book. Arden watched him carefully, but he didn’t write a note to her on the receipt, he didn’t stick his phone number in there. She supposed that was a one-time trick, and it didn’t end so well the last time.

“Enjoy,” he said. Then he stretched. “And I’m done! You’re my last customer of the day.”

“I know,” Arden said.

He cocked his head. “You know?”

She felt shaky and focused, like she was about to dive off the end of a very high diving board. Though she’d never done that before, actually. When she was a kid, every time her mom took her to the YMCA, she would climb all the way up, and she would walk to the edge of the board, and she would stand there and stand there, feeling this same feeling she had right now in her heart and her throat and all the way down to her fingers and toes. Then she would turn around and retreat back down the ladder, to the poolside. She did this dozens of times. Eventually she just stopped climbing up there. The outcome was the same either way, and at least when she stayed at ground level, she never felt like she was failing at anything.

Even now, though, years later, Arden identified that feeling. That moment between certainty and mystery, between safety and soaring.

“Yes,” Arden said. “I know.” She swallowed hard, then thrust the tin in front of him. “Do you want a brownie? I baked brownies.”

Peter blinked a couple times when she pulled off the top to the tin. “Sure,” he said at last. He took a brownie.

As he was about to bite into it, Arden blurted out, “I read your blog. I love your writing.”

And that was all it took. Peter’s face split into a huge, dorky, tooth-filled smile, and for what felt like the first time all day, she exhaled.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Arden.”

“Thank you, Arden.” He stuck out his hand and shook hers, and she took all of this in, the smile on his face, the sensation of his palm against her own. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said. “I’m Peter.”

Dinner with Peter

Arden, Lindsey, and Peter went to a kitschy diner down the street from The Last Page. Arden knew she should be ravenous—other than that Dairy Queen Blizzard, she hadn’t eaten since breakfast—but as it was, when the waiter brought over her basket of chicken fingers, she couldn’t imagine being able to choke them down.

“So how did you find Tonight the Streets Are Ours?” Peter asked after he’d swallowed his first bite of veggie burger. He sat across from Arden and Lindsey, shifting his gaze between them.

“Arden found it,” Lindsey explained. “Just Googling some stuff, right?”

“What exactly were you searching for?” Peter asked.

“Um.” Arden felt herself blush. “The sentence ‘Why doesn’t anybody love me as much as I love them?’”

Peter looked impressed—maybe with her memory, or maybe with the poignancy of his own words. “Did I write that?”

“Yes. About Bianca.”

“Oh. Of course.” Peter’s face slipped into a frown, but he shook it off. “So where did you get that phrase from?”

“I guess it’s something I’ve wondered sometimes,” Arden said quietly. This seemed like a lot to reveal to a stranger. But Peter didn’t feel like a stranger.

“And have you ever found any good answers to that question?” he asked, leaning forward.


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