hey everyone – i'm back with a new chapter.

now, keep in mind that i normally don't write this fast, but because i'm almost on break for the holidays, and therefore have quite a bit of free time, these next few chapters will be exceptions. so don't hold me to this quick updating pace, because it ~probably~ won't last, haha. just warning you ahead of time.

the response to the first chapter was phenomenal! thank you all so much for your lovely comments and favorites and alerts. hearing about how much you enjoyed the first chapter pushes me forward, so thanks to you all.

one minor change was made in the previous chapter – i will now be keeping track of the dates in each chapter, so at the beginning of every post, there will be the date that this day is taking place on. the first chapter took place on friday, october 17th. and this chapter, as you'll see if you scroll down, also takes place on friday, october 17th.

as for the people who asked if the guy on the phone is edward . . . oh, i love you guys. here's a really huge hint: this story is e/b-centric. ;) take from that what you will, but you'll find out eventually, i promise!

disclaimer: stephenie meyer owns all of this, except for the film clueless, which is owned by . . . someone else. and the plot's mine. that being said –

read on, and enjoy!

*

(it's still) friday, october 17th.

Alice's jaw had been slack for so long that I feared it had actually broken from the rest of her face.

"Alice?" I waved my hand in front of her face, and when she didn't even flinch, I rolled my eyes. "Alice? Alice, if you don't say something soon, I'll contemplate a more forceful approach. I'm talking fingers around the neck, back of the hand across the cheek."

Her wide, crystal blue eyes were glued to my face, unmoving and unblinking. The fact that her eyelids hadn't closed in so long was actually beginning to frighten me, and I wondered if she was actually human.

"Alice? Just say something, anything. Wait . . . oh my god. Alice—have I actually driven you to speechlessness?" I gasped.

Slowly, so slowly, she nodded her head.

I heaved a sigh of relief and slumped back into the couch. "Well, at least I know your brain is still responding, even if your mouth isn't."

". . ."

I raised an eyebrow. "Is this supposed to be a good reaction or a bad reaction?"

One thumb pointed up from her clenched fist that rested on her lap.

"Good. Okay." I shrugged and nodded. "You know, I think I'm going to make tea while you continue trying to make your mouth function." I pushed myself off the sofa and shuffled to the kitchen, my fluffy bunny slippers sliding easily along the hardwood floor.

As I filled up the teapot with water from the tap, I heard Alice taking shallow breaths, oxygen resuming the journey to her brain, and laughed quietly under my breath. Telling her about the call wasn't difficult, really—the true test of strength was putting it off. The moment Alice burst through my door in her rubber ducky pajamas (as was customary wardrobe to our slumber parties), the first words that flew from her mouth were, "So tell me what you said you were going to tell me!"

I'd insisted on baking cookies and sucking on therapeutic chocolate (for my terrible job loss, of course) before spilling the day's events, but I'd only got as far as mixing the dry and wet ingredients together. My heart was bursting to let someone else in my secret, and I couldn't hold it in any longer. So I had hooked my arm through hers, dragged her into the living room, and she squealed as I finally divulged in my secret phone affair, every word that had been spoken over the phone tumbling out of my mouth to Alice.

I smiled as I poured the steaming water into my mug, the tea bag bobbling to the surface. I had been expecting Alice's mouth to spew with excited words and cliché phrases, to take hold of my story and live it up to its full, lovey-dovey potential, because that reaction was just so Alice. But she surprised me and did the absolute opposite: she said nothing. And that alone was a much more frightening thing than if her mouth were to never close.

I used a spoon to ring the excess water from the tea bag and tossed the heavy packet into the trash, added a bit of milk and sugar to my tea, and returned to my place on the couch, looking at Alice. At first I'd been worried when Alice's jaw fell open and failed to close; now I thought it was relatively comical. She looked like little Jerry whenever he saw that Tom was coming after him.

Now, it was the non-blinking that had me worried. It made me a little scared for my life—she looked like one of those dolls whose eyes followed every movement I made but never blinked, the dolls that had haunted my nightmares for the entirety of my childhood.

Sitting down with one leg bent beneath me, I stirred my tea with the spoon as I silently, albeit semi-impatiently, waited for her vocal chords to begin working again.

One minute . . . two minutes . . . three minutes . . . I continued stirring, the only sound in the room being the swishing of tea in my mug.

Her voice was thick when she finally spoke. "That . . . was . . ." She cleared her throat. "Unexpected."

I smiled. "Oh, hi there Alice's voice," I teased gently. "I haven't heard you in a while. Welcome back."

Waving her hand in the air, she said, "Yeah, okay, enough with the jokes. Seriously, Bella, what got into you?" She eyed me half-suspiciously. "This is not the Bella I'm friends with. My Bella would have hung up the second she realized it wasn't me on the other end of the phone. My Bella wouldn't have flirted on the phone with a complete stranger. My Bella wouldn't have agreed to continue a kind-of-friendship with this guy."

"I was not flirting!" I said, leaning forward to hit her leg with my hand. "I was just talking to him."

"Bella," she sighed wistfully, "you have so much to learn."

I groaned. "Thanks, Mom."

"But," she said, head high, her voice tight with purpose, "the fact remains: who are you, and what have you done with my friend, Bella Swan?"

Laughing, I replied, "Oh, don't worry—she's still here. She's just . . . revised."

"Revised?" she repeated dubiously. "Is this 'revision' thanks to Mr. Mystery Phone Man?"

"I—what?—no—of course not. This change has been a long time coming." I nodded.

"Uh-huh." Her voice was still doubtful. "This guy seems to have made quite the impression on you, Bella."

I rolled my eyes. "And your point, Alice?" I asked, wrapping my free arm around my middle and taking a sip of tea.

A small smile spread across her face. "See? You're not denying it. You are a changed woman, and you don't even realize it!" she said as she crossed her legs and leaned forward, her elbows resting on her knees.

"That's not true," I countered quietly, sipping at my tea. "I agree—I feel happier—I just don't think it's a result of talking to this man on the phone." The thought of his voice and its resonant sound ran through my head, and I bit my lip.

She grinned as though she knew just what I was thinking. "Sure."

"Really! I'm telling the truth!" I persisted.

She raised her eyebrows. "Oh, I hear you, don't worry . . ." But the glint of mischief in her eyes definitely made worry bubble in the pit of my stomach.

I closed my eyes and shook my head, the very corner of my mouth twisting up. "You are utterly impossible," I said.

She giggled musically, something that only Alice could do. "I could say the very same about you, babe. Now," she said, leaning far forward with intent, "tell me about this man. What's he like?"

"Okay," I said, playing along mockingly and leaning forward as well. I took a sip of tea and said, "I'll tell you every single thing I know about him."

She nodded.

"He is twenty-three-years-old—"

"Just your age," she squealed.

I laughed. "He's incredibly polite, and pretty funny—"

"These are both good qualities."

"Are you going to let me finish, or will you keep interrupting me?" I said with a smile.

She bit her lip and giggled.

"He thinks crying is a turn-on."

A snort escaped her, but, true to her word, she kept silent.

"And he has a deep, smooth voice. Like velvet," I said fondly.

Her grin threatened to crack her face. "You so like him," she whispered.

"Alice," I laughed, "I don't even know him!" But I didn't disagree with her words, because I couldn't. I'd be lying if I said I didn't find him the least bit intriguing, and she knew it.

A pensive look graced her face, and after a few moments, she said, "He sounds acceptable in my book."

"You've already got Jasper. I think it only matters if he's acceptable in mine," I pointed out, taking a swig of tea.

She smiled. "And is he?"

I tapped my index finger against my chin. "I'm not sure yet. I'll have to let you know," I said, the words eerily similar to the ones I'd spoken to Mystery Phone Man. "Though, politeness can never be a bad thing," I added charitably.

"This is so true," she agreed.

"Well, enough of this stranger chatter," I said, gulping down the last of my tea and standing up to take the mug back to the kitchen. "Want to watch a movie?"

"Sure," Alice called from the couch. "But don't think that'll make me forget about him!"

"With your strapping mind, I know that there's no chance of you forgetting about the mysterious stranger for a while," I said, chuckling, as I rinsed out the cup in the sink. "How about some Clueless? Classic nineties movies are the best for a Friday night with a girl friend."

"As if," I heard her whine in perfect imitation of Alicia Silverstone in the film, and I laughed as she said, "Okay, good movie." When I returned to the living room, she was getting the DVD out of its case and placing it in the DVD player beneath the television.

"Oh, hey," she said, switching on the television and snatching the remote control.

"Yeah?"

"What was the thing about him being turned on by crying?"

I tossed my head back and laughed. "It's . . . a long story," I told her, chuckling.

"Getting off the hook is not your forte," she said, shaking a finger before my face. "Just remember that, little Bella."

"I'll be sure to keep that in mind, master Alice."

*

Clueless was always the film to get my spirits up. Seeing everyone happy and smiling right before the rolling credits gave me hope that my life would have a similar outcome, and the thought of such happiness alone caused my heart to beat furiously and the grin spread across my face.

The neon-colored credits burst onto the screen, and I sighed thoughtfully and leaned my head against the back of the sofa. I chuckled whenever Alice did the same thing, and we both looked at each other.

"What a nice, happy ending," I said.

She exhaled slowly. "Yeah. And that was such a cute, quaint little wedding. I'm not sure about all that pink—" I laughed my agreement "—but I think I may want my wedding to be like that. A tad bigger, maybe. The perfect combination of extravagant and humble."

I gasped. "Has Jasper popped the question?! When were you going to tell me?"

"No, no," she said hurriedly. "Nothing like that . . . yet." Her smile was almost shy.

"Do you think he'll ask you soon?" I asked, my voice high with excitement. Alice and Jasper were made for each other—each of them a piece of their combined heart. Someday soon, I knew that Jasper would drop to one knee and ask Alice to marry him—he was the kind of man who would take his time planning out the proposal, making sure every aspect of the days leading up to it were perfectly scheduled. I was just waiting for the call from Alice, the one where her words were jumbled and rushed and her voice was high enough for only dogs to comprehend it. Until that day, though, she and I would have to be satisfied with discussing all the details of the wedding.

Her grin was irrepressible and her eyes shone. "I hope so. There have been some hints dropped," she squealed.

"Oh, Alice," I cried, "that is so wonderful!" I leaned across the sofa to hug her, and was rewarded with her arms constricting around me, as well.

When we pulled back, she said, "I mean, we're already moving in together. And when two people decide to live in the same home, there's a sense of commitment that surrounds it. Moving in together is an agreement of finality. After two people agree to live together, the last thing to agree to is marriage—bonding their lives together . . . forever."

Her voice was full of such an incredible amount of love, tears began forming in my eyes, and when I looked at her face, I could see that they were forming in hers, as well. This time she leaned toward me, and we hugged once more, and then laughed at how girly and emotional we both were. I kissed her cheek and rubbed her back before pulling away.

"I'm so happy for you two."

She nodded her head and smiled. "We are very lucky to have found each other."

"It's a blessing," I agreed, my smile mirroring hers.

A sudden thought ran through my mind. "Speaking of you and Jasper moving in with each other," I said, "one of the things I had said on the phone was an inquiry about me possibly living with you. I was wondering if it would be too much of a burden for me to live with you, Alice, just until I get back on my feet," I clarified. "I don't want to disrupt the fantastic relationship that you have with Jasper, and I definitely understand if it would be too much for me to live with you, because I know that you're in the process of packing up all your stuff and—"

"You're rambling," she laughed. "Stop that. And you could never be a burden to me, Bella. Of course you can live in my apartment for a bit."

I sighed in relief. "Thank you. It's just so that I can leave most of my stuff here, but the bills won't be so high because I'm not using much electricity or anything."

"Of course! Plus, I can help you find a new job." She winked. "I'm an expert at coloring and cutting, you know."

"I'm sure you'll be very handy with a highlighter. Your proficiency will be very much appreciated."

"Now that you say handy," she said with a coy smile, and her overtly suggestive tone made me flush and duck my head, "I sent you a rather funny and somewhat naughty text message on your cell. It's one of those chain stories that got forwarded to me, and I just couldn't resist passing it along." Of course she couldn't. "Did you happen read it yet?"

I shook my head. "No, I haven't checked my phone since I talked to you this afternoon. Hang on, I'll read it now." I hopped up and walked back to my bedroom. "Now, just how naughty of a message is this?" I called.

"Oh, sure to make that blush spread across your cheeks and turn your face into the color of a tomato," she yelled back. I snickered and sifted through my bag. "Alice, Alice, Alice," I muttered under my breath. I found my cell phone and pulled it out.

"Is this a text that my mother would approve of?" I asked, entering the living room and sitting back down.

She tilted her head to the side in thought. "Seeing as how your mother is one of the coolest and most down-to-earth people I know . . . I'd have to say yes, yes she would approve."

"Good to know," I said playfully as I flipped the top of my cell open.

A message was open on the screen. You have six missed calls. Would you like to view them? What in God's name . . . ? I clicked the "OK" button.

There were six missed calls from the same number that I had accidentally dialed earlier.

"Oh my god," I mumbled. "Alice—Alice, look at this." I handed her the cell phone. She stared at the screen for a few seconds, and then finally realized.

Her wide eyes flew to mine. "Is this the number that you called earlier, thinking it was mine?"

I nodded.

"So . . . that must mean that your mystery man has tried to get in contact with you, six times, in the past seven or so hours?"

I nodded.

"Well," she said as she drew in a slow breath, "this is one persistent man that you have on your hands."

I started snickering while my face grew warm with blush. "I guess so."

"I don't think you should keep him waiting any longer," she decided, her eyes staring pointedly into mine.

I bit my lip. "You think I should call him now?"

She nodded fervently.

"That wouldn't seem . . . desperate, would it? Calling on the same day?"

"No," she said as she shook her head. "This—" she gestured to my cell phone, still open, with all of the missed calls still displayed "—this is desperate," she laughed. "Calling him one time, over seven hours after the last time you called, is not desperate. Trust me."

I narrowed my eyes. "I trusted you when you said that gum helps to cleanse the hair, and that got me four inches of hair chopped from my head."

"You pick the one time that my advice shouldn't have been taken—we were in second grade!"

"I'm just saying . . ."

"Trust me," she urged.

I pretended to have a huge, melodramatic sigh. "If I go down, I'm taking you with me," I told her as I plucked my phone from her bony fingers.

She clapped her hands together and grinned. "If that's the price I have to pay, then I'll pay it!"

As I dialed the now familiar number, I couldn't stop the butterflies from rising in the bottom of my stomach; the surge of adrenaline that raced through my veins. It was a heart-pounding reaction, and a reaction much too strong to be associated with just calling a stranger, but it was the reaction I got. My thumb trembled just the tiniest bit, and—embarrassingly—I knew it wouldn't escape Alice's notice.

I pressed the call button and brought the phone to my ear. The fingers of my free hand tapped against my thigh in nervous anticipation.

I was surprised when someone picked up just after the first ring ended. "Hello?" It was him, and he sounded breathless. The velvet quality of his voice sent an unknown (but absolutely welcome) thrill up the length of my spine.

"Hi," I said shyly. Alice picked up a magazine from the couch-side coffee table and began turning the pages, a maternal smile on her face as she listened to my side of the conversation between mystery man and me.

He sighed quietly. "Hi," he said, his tone matching mine.

"How has your day been?"

"Hectic," he answered honestly, suddenly sounding very tired and experienced, "but good. I. . . um . . . I tried calling you several times." He seemed unsure of himself.

I flushed. "Yeah, I saw that when I checked my phone. Sorry. I haven't been near my phone for the past several hours."

"If you really want a phone friend, you should make it easier to get in touch," he teased.

I rolled my eyes and smiled. "I'll try to remember that next time."

"Well, that's all I'm asking for," he said in a smiling voice. "What about you? How was your afternoon? Did you finally get a hold of your friend?"

"Why yes, as a matter of fact, I did. And my day has been pretty good, thanks. With the exception of not having a job anymore," I added as an afterthought. Alice laughed, and then coughed to try to hide it. I stuck my tongue out at her, knowing she could see me from the corner of her eye. She grinned.

He exhaled. "Ah. That is definitely a mood-killer."

"Yes, it very much so is. So now I need a new career. I'll have to grab a newspaper and look through the classifieds. But there's always tomorrow."

I heard a positive-sounding noise escape his throat. "There's always the future."

"What an extraordinarily mood-lifting thought," I mused.

I could hear the smile in his voice when he said, "I'm glad to help."

"Actually . . . now that you mention help . . ."

He chuckled. "Still looking for an anonymous help buddy?"

"I think I'd like that, yeah," I said, grinning.

"So, I guess we should just . . . get started? We can just call each other whenever we're looking for help, guidance, an open ear, et cetera?"

I laughed. "Did you really just say 'et cetera'?"

"Do you have some sort of problem with that phrase?" He matched my laugh.

I snorted. "You sound so smart when you say it." Alice bit her lip to keep from giggling, and I laughed quietly at her self-restraint, simultaneously grateful for and in awe of it.

"I know that when you say 'smart,' you secretly mean 'geeky,'" he teased.

"If that's the way you want to take it," I said, my eyebrows raised, "then go right ahead."

"Oh, that's okay, that's alright. I don't take offense to being geeky. In fact, I quite enjoy it. It's a well-known fact that ladies secretly go for the quiet, nerdy types."

My face grew red. "You sound like you have a lot of experience in this matter, mystery man," I said.

"Yes," he laughed, "I know quite a bit about the preferences of the ladies."

I snickered. "That confidence will get you far, my friend."

"Let's hope so." I flushed harder. "Anyway, back to the therapy."

I choked out a laugh. "Oh, way to make me sound like a crazy old hoot. 'Back to the therapy' . . . that's very non-psychotic-sounding," I said sarcastically.

"I thought you would appreciate that," he said with a chuckle. "Do you want to get started with it now?"

"Shouldn't we think of some . . . guidelines or something first?"

"Guidelines?" His tone was dubious, and I laughed softly at it.

"You know," I said, "to keep this strictly anonymous." I saw Alice raise her eyebrows.

"Oh." Was I imagining the undertone of regret in his voice? He cleared his throat, and when he spoke again, it was as cheery as usual. "Sure—what are your thoughts?"

"So . . ." I bit my lip, thinking. "How about rule one is that we don't tell each other our names? Or where we live in the city. Or our appearances."

Playfully sardonic, he said, "All of that as rule one? That's quite a long rule."

I rolled my eyes. "Okay, okay, I get that you have a refreshing sense of wittiness that you can't seem to keep bottled up inside you. You don't have to prove that to me any longer," I said as I laughed.

He chuckled in response. "Point taken. You may proceed."

"So, to summarize: rule one—we don't exchange our names; rule two—we don't exchange address or apartment numbers or anything like that; and rule three—we don't describe our appearances to each other."

"Understood. Good rules, by the way."

Against my own will, I blushed at his compliment. "It just seems like following these rules is the best way to stay anonymous, you know? This way, if we would ever cross paths in real life, in a café or something, we wouldn't recognize each other. We're friendly, but not attached."

From the corner of my eye, I saw Alice shake her head as she flipped through the magazine and mumble something that sounded like "that'll come back to bite her" under her breath. I poked my foot at her leg, and her head spun toward me. I gave her the best "what's that supposed to mean?" look that I could muster, and she just rolled her eyes and smiled wisely and went back to studying her own personal Bible. I bit my tongue, trying to remember to ask her about that little comment later.

" . . . Mm."

I smiled lightly into the phone. "Do you think you can follow those rules? They're pretty tough," I teased.

He chuckled, and I sighed quietly at the sound. "I think I'll manage. Anyway, I'm sure following them won't be as tough as trying to get a hold of you."

"Ah," I groaned, "point taken. Touché. Lesson learned. Moving on."

"So, should we have this be a weekly encounter? We call once a week—every weekend? Or do you prefer sporadic phone calls?"

"Hm . . . I think I like sporadic. Not every single day, but whenever it suits us."

"And the conversations can be as long or short as we like."

"I think that sounds great. I approve."

"Alright then." His voice was jovial. "Now that we have all the details meshed out, is there anything that you need . . . help with as of right now?"

"'Help'?" I clarified. The word sounded . . . off.

"You're right," he said, "let's not call it help. That sounds too . . . I don't know. Just not friendly. 'Help' sounds too impartial."

"I agree. Last time we talked," I said, "you mentioned something about how listening about my life would be a favor or pleasure or something."

"Yes, I believe 'privilege' is the expression I used."

"Oh, well, excuse my incorrect terms. I apologize."

His laugh was grand, and I smiled in satisfaction and awe.

"So, maybe instead of saying 'how can I help you today,' we can say, 'what favors can I fulfill today?'" I proposed.

I could hear only his breathing on the other end of the phone, and then, "I like that a lot. It fits us."

His use of the word 'us' had me blushing fire hydrant red, and Alice peeked over at me with a huge grin on her face. After a moment, I thought about the sentence I'd said, and then realized what kind of answers Alice could think up in her dirty little head to that question, I flushed further.

Shaking my head furiously at Alice's mischievous eyes, I said, "Alright, then it's a plan."

"Sporadic calls, favors fulfilled, and no extremely personal information exchanged. Do I have all the bases covered?"

I smiled in approval. "I believe you've hit a homerun," I said, and then the double entendre of my words had my previous blush deepening once more.

He cleared his throat, and his voice was a touch rougher when he said, "Thanks. Okay, so—are there any favors of yours that I can fulfill? I am at your expense."

"No, I think I'm fulfilled enough as it is, thanks for asking," I said playfully. "How about you? What do you need me to do for you?" Alice wiggled her eyebrows at me, and I covered the receiver of my phone when I couldn't keep my giggle inside.

"Actually," he sighed, "there is something that's been deeply troubling me for the past hour or so."

"Oh, okay." I sat up straighter and took in a deep breath. "What is it?"

"I've been sitting in my kitchen and wondering what on earth I should do."

My pulse sped just the tiniest bit. "What's wrong?"

"What do I choose: alfredo or meat sauce for my pasta?"

Oh . . . oh. That son of a . . . gun. I swear . . . "That was so not funny," I said, my words contrasting my actions as I laughed breathlessly into the phone. Alice was peering at me curiously with a sideways glance, and I couldn't find the air to explain it to her.

His laughter was quiet but unrelenting as he spoke through gasping breaths, "Yes, it was. I'm sorry to worry you, but it was worth it, just to hear your reaction."

"You know, now that you've pulled that stunt, I'm not so sure you're suitable to be my phone buddy," I said seriously—no hint of humor in my tone.

Now it was his turn worry, and after a few seconds of silence, I snickered into the phone.

He blew out a huge breath, my phone crackling with the closeness of his breath to his receiver, and my laughter couldn't be stopped.

"It's not so funny when you're the one whose leg is being pulled, is it?" I teased.

He exhaled one lone chuckle. "Your point has been made. I'm sorry for the joke earlier. Now, never do that again."

I snickered one last time. "I solemnly swear."

He muttered something under his breath that I couldn't distinguish. I glanced at Alice and saw that she was getting down to the last pages of the magazine. I wondered if not being included in the conversation was boring her, and decided I better get off the phone and continue on with the slumber party.

"I have a friend over right now—"

"Oh, I apologize for keeping you!" he said quickly.

I shook my head. "Don't apologize. I'm the one who called you in the first place, remember? Anyway, as entertaining as this conversation has been—and it really has been so entertaining—I should really get off and have some girl time."

"By all means, go right ahead. Enjoy yourself." His voice was so sincere that I dropped my eyes to my lap in a strange combination of embarrassment and appreciation.

"Thank you," I said, "and you enjoy your evening."

"That's a givein," he said smoothly. I bit my lip in response.

I sucked in a breath through my nose. "So, I guess I'll talk to you . . . later. Sometime soon."

"I'll be looking forward to your call."

"Okay. Goodnight," I said, my cheeks a brilliant shade of red.

"Goodnight," he replied, in a voice so soft I could barely hear it. "Sweet dreams."

I pulled the phone from my ear and ended the call.

"Bella!" Alice shrieked, and I glanced up to see her staring at me with excited eyes. The magazine was no longer on her lap.

"What?" I asked as I fidgeted with my shirt sleeves.

She pointed at my face. "You're as red as an apple! What on earth did that man say to you to make you blush so hard?"

"Well . . . several things . . . for starters . . . he told me 'sweet dreams' right before he got off the phone," I said, highly uncomfortable.

". . ."

". . ."

"Oh my. That man is a keeper," she said in awe-filled voice.

I shook my head. "I think you're falling for him more than I am."

"So you are falling for him?" she asked, her tone creeping upward.

I scoffed. "Alice, how can I be falling for a man that I've never actually met? How does no one find this over-the-phone friend thing weird except for me, the person who's actually engaging in it?"

"Bella," she said, exuding wisdom, "you're not looking at this romantically at all."

"Well, of course I'm not," I agreed, "because that would make me insane. How can I think romantically about a man that I know virtually nothing about?"

She snatched the phone from my hand and opened it, scrolling through some pages that I couldn't see. "You just wait and see . . ." she murmured.

"The fact that you keep hinting at the future, with this comment and that little tidbit you said earlier about anonymity coming back to bite me—it's really starting to creep me out."

"Darling," she said, "you've known me long enough to know that I really enjoy making predictions."

I chuckled. "There is so much truth in that sentence, it's mind-blinding."

"I know," she giggled. "Now, onto that text message . . ." Alice waggled her eyebrows suggestively and handed me my cell phone.

I sighed, though smiling, and read over the text with careful, slightly frightened eyes. With each passing line, my eyes grew wider and wider. By the time I'd finished reading, I was afraid my eyes would be permanently stuck that far open.

"Oh," I cried, thrusting the phone away from me and pushing it into Alice's ribs, my eyes falling shut. "Oh, ew! Alice! Honestly!"

All I could hear were her breathless laughs, but with the message's lewd words imprinted behind my squeezed-shut eyes, I couldn't bring myself to even smile in response.

"That is very naughty! And my mother would not approve!"

*

if you liked this chapter, let me know! thanks to everyone for reading, and have a fantastic weekend/week, depending on where you live.