The Next Morning: Forget Me Not (excerpt)

When Maxie woke the next morning, Alex had already gone. She wondered if he even waited out the night, or if he snuck away right after she fell asleep. The thought only passed through her mind; she didn’t care much either way. It only meant one less person to cook breakfast for.

She freed her hair from its tie and shook it loose, pulled on an oversized sweatshirt over her bra and panties with wool, knee-high socks and made her way to the kitchen. She glanced at Van’s door as she passed, wondering what time she’d returned home from her date. An aching resentment rose in her gut and she quickly suppressed it. Isaac was just a man, after all. What did it matter that Maxie’s thoughts had remained constantly on him since the moment she woke to find him in her hospital room? He was just a man. There would be others. Others that her best friend wasn’t interested in.

In the kitchen, Maxie put on a pot of coffee and began to mix batter for pancakes. She didn’t turn around when she heard Van’s door open. “You’re up early,” she called. “It isn’t noon yet, you still have three and a half hours—”

 “Maxie?”

The familiar— but unexpected— voice made her jump. She spun around, nearly turning over the whole bowl of batter, and gasped. “Isaac?”

He stood before her, wearing nothing but boxers and socks, an expression on his face that conflicted surprise and anguish. Maxie’s eyes moved down the length of his body, his flawless, godlike body, and for a moment, the reality of the situation got away from her. Isaac was standing half naked in her kitchen. It only meant one thing.

Blinking, she quickly looked away from him. “I’m sorry,” he said, though he didn’t move an inch to cover himself. “I didn’t know you were here.”

 “Why would you?” she asked. “I only live here. You, on the other hand…”

She allowed herself to look at his face. His brows were furrowed, his jaw was taut. “I spent the night with Van,” he informed her, his voice low and heavy. Nodding, she looked away again. “We’d been drinking,” he said. “I couldn’t drive all the way back to Brooklyn—”

 “You don’t need to explain,” she said, raising her palms to him.

 “—I didn’t even mean for anything to happen—”

She shut her eyes tightly. “Please don’t explain.”

He stopped. She gazed at him, at his perfect face. She couldn’t speak. There it was again, that familiar shortness of breath that she’d gotten when she was with him the week before. Only this time, it wasn’t just his good looks that had her gasping for air. The immense disappointment settled on her chest. Disappointment for what? she asked herself. Had she expected something different? Was she hoping for another outcome? She realized that a small part of her was. A tiny part that she ignored for days as she daydreamed of nothing but him. How stupid of her.

Before either one of them could speak again, Van plodded out of the bedroom, hair unkempt, makeup smeared, and naked accept for a skimpy, satin nighty that barely reached the back of her thighs. Maxie had to look away. “Here you are,” she said, going to Isaac. Even Van, four inches taller than Maxie, had to look up to him. She laced her arms around his waist and kissed his collarbone. “Good morning.”

He looked down at her with dark eyes. “’Morning,” he mumbled.

 “Maxie’s cooking you breakfast, huh?” She looked at her roommate and her eyes widened. “Maxie! What are you wearing?”

For the first time, Maxie realized that she was half naked. She looked down at her oversized sweatshirt, just long enough to cover the swell of her behind, and her bare legs, and felt her face grow hot. She shut her eyes for a moment, struggling to contain her overflowing humiliation and anger and jealousy. Van giggled.

Pulling the hem of the sweatshirt down, Maxie opened her eyes and met Isaac’s gaze. His stare was dark and unwavering, glued on her face and not budging. “Right. Well, I’m just gonna go in my room,” she said, struggling to keep the emotion from her tone. “Good seeing you again, Isaac,” she said, moving past him, and then added, “Not at all awkward.”

“I like your hair,” he said, his eyes following her past him. Another giggle came from Van before Maxie disappeared into her room and shut the door behind her.

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