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Part 1



** ANNA **



What do I have to lose?

All I needed to do was email the guy, set up the date, pray he was even a fifth as amazing as Emily said he was, and show up. That’s it.

I am such a Scaredy McFrightenedton . . .

Staring at the blinking cursor on my screen, I eyed the “x” in the upper right-hand corner. I could just close the window, navigate to the start menu, select shut down, and watch my computer screen fade to black.

One year. Twelve months. Just a week shy of three hundred sixty-five days.

Somewhere in the rebellious recesses of my mind, an annoying little voice (sounding suspiciously like my own) reminded me that nearly twelve months had passed since my last date. Since my boyfriend had broken up with me via text message, completely out of the blue, on Valentine’s Day.

On the scale of awful, it rated pretty high. This was because the text he’d sent was a picture of him kissing another girl. I was completely blindsided. One minute we were solid, and the next he was in the running for the world’s biggest-bag-of-dicks trophy.

In other words, my ex was the John Willoughby to my Marianne Dashwood, if John Willoughby had quoted Pokémon and anime instead of Shakespearean sonnets. And Marianne had liked him mostly for his skills as a trivia night partner and cheerful acceptance of her jigsaw puzzle habit.

Even though my heart hadn’t been broken, it had been bruised. Afterward, I had difficulty trusting my own judgment. He’d seemed so nice. Nerdy nice. My kind of nice.

And though I hadn’t run recklessly into a rainstorm and nearly died of pneumonia, I’d sworn off romantic relationships with non-fictional characters (i.e. other real humans) for the remainder of my life. At the time, it felt like an easy promise to keep.

But now, after almost twelve months and Valentine’s Day looming, I felt restless, surprisingly ready to throw my hat in the ring again. Get my groove on. I might even be persuaded to watch Netflix and chill.

And yet, I wasn’t so sure.

What do you have to lose?

The thought troubled me and I debated the nature of loss, realizing—sans the possibility that this guy Emily wanted to set me up with was literally a serial killer—all I had to lose was time. Time I would most likely otherwise spend watching A Room with a View and rewinding the scene on the hill over and over and over and over.

The one where Julian Sands grabs Helena Bonham Carter with his big man-hands, holding her around the waist and sliding his—I imagined—cool fingers over her cheek, then pulling her to him with expectation. And as their lips meet for the first time, amidst the sea of golden barley, the kiss explodes with passion.

And there it was.

The possibility of passion, and maybe even the possibility of real heartbreak, feelings for a person beyond the safety of my comfort zone, the risk of actually wanting to run recklessly into a rainstorm, had me internally monologue a pep talk.

Screw fear of the unknown! Carpe Diem! Seize the fucking day!

I nodded, and then began typing.


Hi Lucas,

You don’t know me . . . and I don’t know how to do this. But rest assured, the most terrible and terrifying thing has already been written (the most terrible thing being the word “hi”, because—in this circumstance—it is also the bravest).

Now that my awkward reference to Anna Karenina has been made, let me start again:

Hi Lucas,

You don’t know me. Our mutual friend (Emily Von) gave me your email address. Emily has told me many times that she thinks we would be perfect for each other, that it’ll be “love at first sight.”

Even though I’m a romantic, I don’t believe in love at first sight; the concept strikes me as frivolous and convenient. As Tolstoy said, “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”

But I digress.

If you’re interested in meeting up, please come to Jake Peterson’s Microbrewery on Fifth and Pine this Saturday at 6 p.m. (Valentine’s Day). I’ll be the one in leather pants.

Looking forward to it, Anna I. Harris

PS Don’t ask what the “I” stands for because I won’t tell you.


On a rush of adrenaline, I typed the message and the email address from the card Emily had given me, and hit send. And then I reveled in my courage and guts and ability to seize the moment, taking wide steps around my apartment with my head held high. I smiled at my reflection and the inspiration of meeting at the microbrewery, most likely brought on by the picturesque barley field of Lucy and George’s first kiss.

I also patted myself on the back—literally, in front of the mirror—for having the tits to schedule the date for V-day.

I spent a full minute congratulating myself, dwelling on my amazingness, before anxiety hit me like a punch in the throat.

What have I done?


Nervous wreck? Basket case? How about deer caught in headlights?

Oh yeah, all those idioms and more.

What am I doing here? What are you doing?

I glanced down at my outfit—leather pants. Leather-fracking-pants. Leather pants purchased from a thrift store. I was in someone else’s leather pants.

As a college student responsible for my own bills, I couldn’t afford brand-new leather pants. But I was also a cosplay aficionado, and therefore owned leather pants.

You know, for costumes.

My part-time job working at the Natural History Museum’s swanky restaurant as a server allowed me to maintain the ostentatious lifestyle to which I’d become accustomed: a 1992 Honda Civic with no original parts, tragic romance novels, early edition—and maybe a little moldy—fiction classics, boxes of wine, ramen noodles, and thrift store finds for my cosplay costumes. My modest student loans helped cover school costs beyond my academic scholarships; I was determined to graduate with as little debt as possible.

Besides, the best things in life can all be found at thrift stores. Just ask my collection of David Bowie faces on Labyrinth-themed coffee mugs.

But back to now, because right now, I was certifiable. I needed to find the nearest sane person and sign over my rights to decision making, or at least give them my laptop. Might as well throw in my passcode to the computer lab on campus.

Severely apprehensive, I glanced around the microbrewery and rehearsed for the seventh time all the excuses I could give to leave early when he eventually showed up . . . if he showed up.

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