How I Got Carter

Chapter 17

By Roe St. Alee


It’s finally here!

Opening night.

Or rather, it’s the early predawn hours of the day that will eventually turn into opening night. My alarm isn’t set to go off for almost another hour, but I’m so excited I can’t imagine I’ll be able to fall back asleep.

Instead, I try to quiet my mind and focus on the day to come. I need to save some of this excitement for later. There’s still a full day of school. I have a math quiz. I need to turn in homework. After that, I can get stoked.

Unfortunately, I don’t see myself being able to focus on anything. I’m already buzzing with energy, and after a few fruitless minutes of waiting for my brain to shut back off so I can snooze, I decide to get out of bed and officially make it an early morning.

First things first. Breakfast.

Usually I’ll shower and get dressed first thing in the morning, but I think today needs to start with a nice, hearty breakfast. I’m rummaging through the fridge for something to eat when my phone goes off. I pull out milk, yogurt, and an apple before checking my messages.

It’s Katy.

[ GET PUMPED!!!!!! ]

Of course it’s Katy. She knows me too well. She doesn't even have to ask if I’m up already. Anytime I’m excited, I’m up and at 'em way too early. She’s the same way.

[ I’m trying to get a jump start on my Tony acceptance speech ;) ]

She’ll get a kick out of that.

I wolf down my food like any good teenage boy as we exchange a few more texts back and forth. Since she’s awake, I coerce her into giving me a ride to school. That’ll give me a few more minutes to get ready, so I run upstairs to shower and pick out clothes. During our breakfast, Katy and I also decided that we’re going to look good today, so I’ll need to pick something extra special to wear.

I eventually decide on my favorite mustard yellow corduroys and a trendy purple sweater from Banana Republic. It’s a great look for me. Katy helped me pick out these pants, and the sweater was a lucky find at a thrift store a few months ago. I spend a few extra minutes getting my hair perfect and take a good long look at myself in the mirror.

I look damn good. Not just regular good. Fantastic, in fact. And when you look good, you feel good.

I’m sure part of it is the excitement of the show tonight, but there’s something else. I feel positive vibes, and it’s practically radiating out from me. Not just about the show. About everything. Today is going to be one hell of a good day. I’m sure of it.

I shove my books in my backpack and realize, as I’m heading out the door to meet Katy, that this is the first time I’ve felt like this since… you know.

I haven’t felt bad. But I haven’t felt like this. This is the feeling Carter used to give me. I used to pop off the pillow to a text from him and be energized to go to school, because I knew he would be there. I would count down the minutes until study hall when we might sit together, and then anxiously await the end of the day when we would both be in chemistry, whether we were working on a lab together or just going over some homework and casually talking and flirting in between problems.

Even though we weren’t dating, I felt a genuine closeness to him. It was all friendly, besides the few times we fooled around of course, but he lit up everything inside me and made me feel like I was something really special. I mean, if you’re hooking up with a guy like Carter, you must be something special.

In the weeks since, it’s been hard to tell if that feeling was only something I ever felt with Carter, or if it was something I was just now missing because my time with Carter had made it so strong. Had it been there before him? Was it inside me all along?

Honestly, I don’t know. But today, I’m feeling it. I’m feeling it like I haven’t in weeks and weeks, and this time it’s making me even happier, because it’s just me. It’s not anything I’m depending on from someone else. I have myself and I have the things that are constant in my life - friends, family, and the play tonight. Those are all my things. Things that can’t get taken away from me.

Damn that feels good.

Before I can even blink it’s already lunchtime, and Ko and I are chowing down on today’s special, chicken alfredo. If anything it’s another omen pointing to a great day, as it’s one of the best things they ever make at school. According to me and Ko at least.

Katy swings by for a few minutes as we’re finishing up to figure out our exact plans for tonight. We don’t have to be at the theater until a few hours after school ends, but Katy and I decide to head over there immediately after our last class. Opening night is a huge deal, and we want to savor and soak up as much of it as we can.

The rest of the day comes and goes in a flash, and I’m back to practically purring with excitement by the time I get to chemistry. Today is a lecture day, and as riveting as Nizen’s discourse on valence electrons is, I can only think of one thing. In less than five hours I’ll be on stage.

We wrap up class with about twenty minutes to spare, and I’m not sure what I’ll do. I’m so full of energy I feel like I might burst. And I need to sit here and pretend to do my chemistry homework for almost half an hour? Not likely.

But I do need to get some of this homework done, and merely pretending to do it won’t help the time go by any faster. Tonight I’ll be busy with the show, and I already have at least half of tomorrow’s study hall locked up to finish an English assignment.

I resign myself to my assignment. Tonight’s work is tedious, but not hard. I’m picking up well on this chapter, and my good mood surprisingly translates into a decent focus, so I knock one problem out after another. I should be able to get almost all of the assignment done if I don’t get stuck on anything.


I jerk my head up in surprise at the sound of my name. I get the impression that it wasn’t the first try to get my attention.


I turn to see Carter leaning over toward my desk with a piece of paper in his hand.

“You’re really good at these, right?” he asks. “Does number seven look weird to you?”

I grab his paper and look down at seven. His process is right, but he made a mistake on adding everything up at the end. That’s not like Carter. I’m more of a detail person than he is, but he still usually double checks all of his work.

“You added it up wrong,” I say, and hand it back.

Before he even takes the paper out of my hand, my focus is back on my own and I’m working on the next problem. I get the vague sensation that he’s still looking at me, but I ignore it. If he wants to talk to me he can say something. For now I have bigger fish to fry. This homework needs to distract me for ten more minutes, and then it’s opening night.

I have to smile a bit as I get back into my work. Even Carter can’t distract me from my high today. This is what I was born to do.

After what seems like a decade, the bell rings. From that moment, I feel like I’m floating through a fog. Out of the classroom and over to my locker. Then from the locker up to the drama classroom to grab a few things I stashed in there this morning. Then down all the way across the school to the auditorium. I don’t notice the people in the halls around me or the noise and commotion of the end of the school day. There’s a thousand little stories in a high school hallway, but for me it’s just a journey through limbo, the school day finally done and the big night only moments away.

So let’s try that again: It’s finally here. Opening Night.

I put my bag and a few other things in my cubby in the dressing room. A handful of other people have gotten here already, but so far no sign of Katy. I manage to finagle the promise of a few pieces of pizza from a senior on stage crew who’s leaving for a while to grab some food. I probably won’t have time to leave at all. Curtain is at 6pm for our show tonight, and I want to make sure there’s plenty of time to get my makeup and costuming done.

Back in my freshman year, I had been pretty nervous about my first show. I hadn’t done much acting before, but thought that maybe theater was something I wanted to try. Imagine my surprise when I snagged a meaty role in my first ever show. The Reverend Hale in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” Not bad for a rookie.

From the first day of practice, I was surprised at how comfortable I felt on stage. It was easy once I was up there doing it, and I was getting along with everybody in the company too. Things were going great, and I came into our last week of rehearsal with a full head of steam and all the confidence in the world.

Oh, the naiveté of Jackson the freshman. Opening night hit me like a freight train.

The whole day leading up to it had been pretty similar to today. I was riding high on what I thought was almost guaranteed to be my smash hit, break out performance. I swaggered into the auditorium after school laughing and joking with the other kids in the show, a big smile on my face. Everything was looking up. Until the moment I stepped out onto the stage.

Luckily it was still a few hours before curtain. I didn’t even have my makeup or costume on yet. I just wanted to get a feel for what it would be like once I got up there to perform. I pushed out from behind the curtain and walked onto the exposed part of the stage.

At that exact moment, our technical director decided she wanted to run through the lighting cues one more time. The house lights came down, and there I was.

Under the stage lights, all my confidence flew straight out the window. The lights suddenly felt hotter and brighter than they ever had during rehearsal. Instead of squinting out through the glare to see our director and a few other people, I saw row after row after row of chairs. In a few hours, they wouldn’t just be chairs, they would be full of people. From the looks of it, half the town would be there watching me.

Heart pounding, I ran back through the curtain and into the calming blue lights of backstage. How the hell was I going to do this?

It’s like all the nerves I hadn’t been feeling about the show for the past few weeks suddenly came to life in a giant wave of fear and anxiety. I closed my eyes and forced myself to breathe slow, even breaths. I willed myself not to cry, even though I wanted to. Maybe if I said I was sick, they would get someone else to...


I looked around to see who was talking to me. I didn’t see anyone from stage crew, but I had definitely heard a voice calling me, a girl.

“Up here!”

I looked up into the grid and could just make out the shadow of a figure above me. There was a sort of catwalk above our stage where you can go to adjust lights, hook up set pieces, or even string up a harness for our school’s infamous production of Peter Pan. Let’s just say that having high schoolers in charge of your flying harness might not be the safest idea.

But now there was a voice calling me from somewhere up there. I walked to the back of the stage where the access ladder was, and was surprised to find that it was open. Usually they kept it closed and locked unless someone needed to go up there to fix something. They didn’t want us kids wandering up there whenever we felt like it.

I climbed the ladder and found the source of the mystery voice from above: Katy.

At the time, Katy was a bit of an anomaly to me. She was a year older and seemed so serious about everything in theater. She was the person who showed up to the first rehearsal totally off book, and she wasn’t afraid to give you pointers if you needed it during our practices. Never in a snooty or off putting way, but it was still intimidating to work with her. She definitely wasn’t someone I ever had the guts to try and buddy up with.

“First big show?” she asked as I popped my head through the ladder hatch and into the grid.

“Yeah,” I said, shuffling over as best I could to sit next to her. The roof there was only about five feet tall, and there were loads of connectors, fixtures, and who knows what drilled into the ceiling, so you had to walk through all hunched over.

“It’s a lot different when the chairs are out there, isn’t it?” she said.

“Yeah,” I said again. Just a single word, but I could tell we were on the same page. An empty auditorium could never convey how many people were going to be out there watching me on stage for opening night.

“Are you nervous?” she asked.

I nodded and looked out again at all the empty seats. In less than two hours those would all be full. I’d have to walk on stage to deliver my lines, with all those people looking…

“Good,” said Katy, giving my hand closest to her a reassuring pat. “‘Cause that means you’re excited.”

I threw her an incredulous look. She made it sound so simple, and in my current state of near panic, I did not agree. That being said, she had been doing this for a while, so I figured I should hear her out.

I still remember the feeling I got when she turned and smiled. I blushed. Not because a cute girl was getting close with me - even then I was pretty sure I wasn’t interested in girls - but because this girl who was so good at something I wanted to be good at was being nice to me. Even though I was nervous, I could feel the warmth from her smile. That’s the power Katy has, the same thing she does when she’s acting up on the stage. She can radiate a feeling straight over to you.

“Don't worry, Jackson,” she continued, “you’re going to feel nervous for a little bit, but by the time we get out on stage, it’s all going to turn into a rush. When you actually step out into the lights, you won’t be nervous at all.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, before I could stop myself from saying it. I sounded like an idiot, so unsure of myself.

“I’ve done this before,” she answered with a wink. “Nervous and excited - it’s the same thing. Same feeling, just whether you’re scared or happy while you’re feeling it.”

We talked for another fifteen or twenty minutes, until there wasn’t any time to spare. Katy took me down to the stage then back to the dressing room where she did my makeup for me. There was something so calming about being around her. Like she had done this a thousand times already, and that there was absolutely nothing to be nervous about. By the time the curtain rose, Katy was right. The nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach had morphed into an excited energy that wanted nothing more than to go out there and give those people the best show I could.

Over the next few weeks we became best friends, and to this day she still does my makeup for me before every show. Usually she’ll do mine early, since it’s a little weird to have one of the actors doing makeup, instead of the girls on the makeup crew. Then I sit with her while she gets hers done. At this point we’re 3 years into the tradition and it’s still one of my favorite parts of a show night.

“There’s my little superstar!”

Katy’s voice pulls me back to the present moment and I turn around to see her practically strut into the dressing room with her makeup bag. She acts like she owns the place around here, which as a senior with her reputation and experience, she pretty much does. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s more like she’s invested so much of her time and energy here over the last few years that she’s as much a part of our theater as the dressing room itself.

My makeup for this show is awesome, but it takes a while to get it right. I wear a mask over my eyes, but the bottom half of my face still shows. Katy colors it to match the mask, then puts deep, dark lines all around my mouth, giving my expressions a crazed, almost supernatural look under the lights. I don’t know how she figured it out, but I can’t wait to suit up.

With a flourish, Katy pulls out the first couple items from her bag and gets to work.


I know how it must seem to other people. Everything about the theater, from beginning to end, is cheesy and cliché. We put on musty old costumes with all sorts of velvety fabrics and tights and stupid looking hats. We speak trite, archaic words - you could just look them up in a book if you really care what we’re talking about - and prance around on stage between fake replicas of objects. Plywood and polyester, painted and sewn, with centuries old words that you’ve heard a hundred times before.

And somehow, it’s magic.

Everything we’re doing up there is fake, from the clothes to the set pieces, with our mediocre acting to top it all off. Yet somehow, on certain nights, with the lights shining down just right, a strange energy will take hold. On stage we start to feel it a few minutes into the show, and then it seeps into the audience and they start to feel it too. Then the actors start to notice that the audience is feeling it, and they feel it even more. And this magical, inexplicable feeling starts reflecting and intensifying back and forth between the two until no one’s noticing anything anymore.

Maybe you’ve never experienced it, but I can assure you it’s very real. It doesn’t happen every single night, and most nights it’s not so intense. But every once in awhile it strikes a chord, like a low hum reverberating in a stairwell. And everybody feels it.

That’s how opening night goes.

There’s magic in the air from the moment we step on stage. By the time Quince and Bottom appear, there’s a palpable energy in the theater. We’re giddy with excitement as we wait for our entrances in the wings, and everyone on stage is on fire. When an audience is laughing at 400 year old jokes, you know you’re doing it right.

The first half of the show flies by, and before we know it, the curtain is dropping for intermission. Backstage we can’t stop smiling and giggling. We’re crushing it tonight.

As is our tradition, Katy and I meet at the ladder. ‘Our ladder,’ as we sometimes call it. We check to make sure the coast is clear, flip the latch that allegedly secures the ladder, and then climb up to the grid as fast as we can. I’m in the first scene of the second act, so we might only have a few minutes to take it all in.

We scoot up to the front of the catwalk, which actually extends past the curtain. That way we can sneak a peek out into the auditorium without being spotted. This is where we first met, and ever since that first show we like to come up here during the break to people watch and get a quick breather.

Within a few minutes I’ve spotted a bunch of my classmates and teachers, and even my favorite assistant principal, Ms. Zidnik. Nice of her to come out tonight.

“There’s your mom,” Katy points out over the left side of the stage, near the front.

I look over and see her with Randy and Sarah and my aunt. I told Mom to be over on that side of the stage since there’s a part of the show where I get to jump out at the audience in that corner. I’m hoping it will get a reaction from everyone, but the thought of scaring my little brother and sister is the best part.

In the row behind them I can see Ko texting on his phone. At least he’s not asleep. Katy and I are pretty sure that he secretly likes coming to see our plays, but he always makes a big fuss about it, just like the football games. I know his mom and dad are coming to the play tomorrow and they’ll probably make him come with them too. Strange to see a play twice if you hate it that much.

Closer to the middle section I spot Katy’s parents talking to a few older folks I don’t recognize. And sitting next to them…

“He’s sitting with your parents?” I exclaim.

Katy jabs me in the side with her fingers.

“Don’t even start with me,” she whispers back. “He was picking me up to go to the movies last week and they asked if he had tickets yet.”

“And they bought him one?”

Katy sighs. “They didn’t really give him a choice.”

Poor Jeff. Katy’s parents are nice people, don’t get me wrong. But that seems like a big step. Out to see a show with the in-laws. Yikes.

I scan back across the aisles to see if I know any of the people coming back out of the lobby into the auditorium. I see the delivery guy from our favorite pizzeria and the lady who checks the parking meters in town. It’s not a bad turnout for a Thursday night…



It’s Carter.

He’s walking up the aisle.

Why didn’t he say that he was coming tonight? He saw me in chemistry and could have mentioned it, then I at least would have had my guard up. Instead, I’m staring down at him and wondering if it’s too late to get an understudy to finish off the show. Slap enough makeup on him and people wouldn’t even know the difference.

Just then, the lights flash in the auditorium, indicating the end of intermission and the start of the second half of the show. For the audience, that means it’s time to find your seat. For Katy and me, it’s time to get the heck out of the dusty grid and get back down to our dressing rooms.

I try to shake the thought of Carter from my mind as I clamber back down the ladder. The same questions run through my head on repeat: Why is he here? Why didn’t he tell me he was coming? What does it mean?

I’m not especially careful about checking to see if the coast is clear as we descend. Luckily no one sees until we’re almost to the dressing rooms, and we manage to slip seamlessly in with all the other actors like we were never even gone.

I think everyone has something in their lives that can take their mind off of anything in a heartbeat. For Ko it’s his models that he likes to build. For Sam it’s archery.

Thankfully, for me it’s acting. By the time I sit down for a quick touchup on my stage makeup, the thought of anything at all to do with Carter is miles away. I’m thinking of my stage directions, my lines, and a few key spots that I really want to turn up the intensity. I’m right back in the zone.

Acting has always been like that for me. From the first time I was in a play - a ramshackle retelling of the story of King Arthur and his knights in second grade - I’ve always been able to get lost in the craft.

When I was obsessing over Carter, Drama was always one of the best periods of the day. I would go an entire class without thinking about Carter once. Even when things were going well between us it was a welcome relief to get away for a little bit. And when it wasn’t going well, it was an absolute life saver.

Tonight is certainly no exception. The first half of the show went well, and even in the dressing room I can feel the energy building back up. There’s a buzz around all the actors, and once something like that gets going, it sucks you right in.

Forget about Carter. Forget about all of it.

It’s time for the second act. It’s time to perform. The first half of the show was fire, and we need to keep it up.

And we do it.

If anything, the second half is even better than the first. I forget that Carter’s even here - hell, I forget about Carter completely. Katy’s not thinking about Jeff’s awkward date with her parents, and even Ko is probably sitting out there hanging on our every word. It feels natural, easy, and right. This is exactly where we’re supposed to be right now.

The curtain swings shut as we wave our final goodbyes to the crowd. The applause is almost deafening. As the noise dies down, the cast and crew stand backstage together, basking in the afterglow of a great performance. I try to take a snapshot of the moment in my mind. That instant when the curtain closes and the world goes dark.

Everyone is beaming from ear to ear, and we share one final, perfect moment together in happy silence. You can feel the energy and contentment radiating from everyone around. You might only get one performance like this in the entire run. It’s crazy that it’s opening night, but I’ll take it. We killed it, and a moment like this is a perfect one.

The house lights come on, and that includes the lights backstage. The sudden return of our sight snaps us out of our reverie, but only partially. The success is still real, and the smiles aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Except maybe mine.

Because the instant the lights come up, there’s only one thing I can think about.


He’s here. He’s out there. And after a whole night of not thinking about him for a second, it’s almost like my brain releases the flood gates and all of my pent up Carter thoughts and emotions come pouring out. Why was he here? What did he think of the show? Did he actually come to see me? There are thousands of questions racing through my brain, and I’m powerless to stop them.

I should know better, especially now. The last few weeks have actually been great for me, and I’ve been avoiding Carter to the best of my abilities. My grades are great, I’m spending lots of time with my friends, soccer is wrapping up a good season, and tonight’s show was undoubtedly a smashing success.

So why does thinking of Carter feel like opening up a massive hole inside of my heart?

Ugh. I’m disgusted with myself for being so weak about Carter. I can’t even deny it. Ever since we split up I feel empty. Everything I’ve done seems drab and flavorless in retrospect. Perfectly decent memories, but suddenly whitewashed into blandness with the absence of Carter. Even now, in the middle of what should be the best feeling of my life - coming hot out of the gates with a killer performance in the play - I’m absolutely crushed by the thought of being alone.

I make myself small and shrink back into the rear of the backstage area. I see my fellow cast and crew members shuffle out the wings, laughing and carrying on, floating away to the audience on the high of a great performance. I don’t want to rain on their parade.

I grab a few props and try to sort them out, finding their homes in the cubbies we have on the wings. A few minutes, I tell myself, and I’ll be back to my normal self. I just need to keep busy and wait until my mind drifts back away from Carter and I can enjoy the success of the night. He’ll be gone out of the theater, and I can go see my mom and other friends from school, who I’m sure will stick around until I come out to wish me the best.

I wonder if it’s always going to be like this. I’ll go the next few weeks feeling good and living my life and then… Bam. I’ll be struck with loss and resentment, and the inescapable feeling of missing a piece of myself. Something I feel even more stupid for, since I never even had it in the first place. I was kidding myself all along, and now I’m going to carry that around like a lead weight for the rest of my life.

A few more minutes, I tell myself. I grab an extension cord up off the floor and start spooling it up. I decide that once I’m done putting it away I’ll head out into the auditorium. My mom, Ko, and Katy are probably waiting around for me at this point. I can tell them that I was putting some things away, or that I was trying to find my phone or something. Once I get out there I’ll be back to normal, distracted once again from the dark feelings that are always lurking beneath the surface.


I freeze, and the half spooled cord I’m holding drops from my fingers back onto the floor.

“That was amazing.”

I turn around, and have to fight the urge to throw up or pass out, or… something!

It’s a sight to behold. Carter, dressed up in khaki pants and a blue button up that fits perfectly, standing under the dim lights backstage. There’s an aura around him, a presence, and it takes my breath away. Not only to see him, but to see him like this.

We haven’t been alone together since the morning after the football game. The last time we talked - more than just conveying information about chemistry back and forth that is - was when he told me what we were doing was gay. I agreed, but we both had very different opinions of what that meant.

And that was that.

Or so I thought.

But now he’s standing here, one on one, and he’s absolutely resplendent as always. How attractive he looks only makes me angrier. At him of course, but more at myself. After all this, I’m still ready to bow down and worship this beautiful, infuriating boy. How stupid can I be?

“You were amazing, Jackson.”

He’s so earnest. He always is. He pauses before he says things, and it makes you think that he’s really thinking about it. He looks you dead in the eye when he speaks, and it makes you really believe it. And now he’s telling me I was amazing, and I’ll never ever forgive myself if I believe him for even a second.

“Seriously. You were incredible.”

I’m melting. My anger with him is withering with every word, and it only makes me madder with myself. I am in awe of this boy. His words, his looks, his sincerity. It’s all so damn infuriating. He broke my heart and I can’t even tell him off, I’m so busy getting butterflies in my stomach because he’s here alone with me backstage and he’s telling me that I’m amazing.

Without saying anything else, Carter reaches out with a huge bouquet of flowers. I feel all the blood leave my head and I have to will myself not to pass out. With a shaky hand, I reach out and take the flowers.

“Thanks,” I finally manage to sputter. “They’re beautiful.”

I’m not sure what to say. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what’s happening here. Carter came to find me backstage, and then handed me a bouquet. Is it just some weird joke?

I look back up at Carter from my flowers, and he’s smiling at me. He takes a step toward me, and now we’re only a few feet apart.

“I don’t want to ruin your night, but there was something I wanted to tell you.” He tries to gauge my reaction, but I keep my face as neutral as I can. If what he’s about to say is going to ruin my night, I don’t want to hear it.

“Go ahead,” I tell him.

Since we’re both already here, he might as well get it over with. I can’t imagine what he could say that would ruin anything. We already aren’t speaking, and we’ve already blown up over the fact that I’m in love with him. How much worse could it get?

“I’m sorry,” he says. His eyes drop and he stares down at the floor.

A big part of me wants to really rub his nose in it and tell him that what he did to me was so messed up, and that I’ll never forgive him. But he’s so damn cute when he gets like this.

“Hey,” I say, taking another little step in his direction, “it’s ok. I’m sorry too,” I add. “I shouldn’t have sprung all that on you. I shouldn’t have-”

“No.” Carter cuts me off. “You don’t have to be sorry for anything. You’ve been…” He searches for the words. “You’ve been perfect, Jackson.” He moves a little closer, and our faces are less than a foot away from each other. “You’ve been perfect.”

What does he mean, calling me perfect? He’s the perfect one! I’m the one who’s trying to pull him away from his normal, straight life. I’m the underdog here, trying to take our friendship to places it probably shouldn’t go. In his eyes, if nothing else, I can’t imagine how I’m perfect.

“I don’t know what you mean, I tried to-”

He stops me again. “You’ve been honest with me, and I know that was hard. The truth is, I haven’t been honest with you.” He shakes his head. “I haven’t been honest with anyone.”

Maybe it’s just the stage lighting, but I’ve never seen him look this intense. His eyes are so powerful right now, bursting with meaning and sincerity. Fuck him, he’s so damn hot.

“You can be honest with me,” I offer, drawn toward him, as though he’s going to whisper and I want to be sure I can hear it. “I wasn’t… I’m not... mad at you. You know you can trust me.”

His eyes bore into me for a second, and his look intensifies. “I know I can.”

Carter leans forward and kisses me.

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