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I open my mouth to tell him this, but I hesitate.
Devon and I haven’t talked about anything that personal in a long time.
And I know that some people think the Holy Grail of friendship is being able to sit in comfortable silence with another person, and Devon and I have always had that, which I’m grateful for.
But I don’t fool myself into thinking we’re besties.
Once upon a time, I told him everything, and he told me as much as an eleven-year-old boy is likely to tell anyone.
Lately I’ve been wondering if Devon doesn’t still think of me as my ten-year-old self, because there’s so much he doesn’t know about the grown-up Chloe.
He doesn’t know that the bold preteen he once knew who pretended she didn’t care what other people thought of her is having a harder and harder time holding on to that illusion.
He doesn’t know that twenty-one-year-old Chloe has more than a couple self-esteem issues, one of them centering around that Diet Coke can that he’s commandeered.
And he definitely doesn’t know that grown-up Chloe has grown-up feelings for him.
I don’t have a clue how to tell him that this brother-sister thing he thinks we have going on is pure agony.
And since I can’t tell him how I feel, I tell him something else instead.
Because maybe it’s time to revisit the bold, say-anything Chloe.
“I went with diet over regular because there’s fewer calories,” I blurt out, my gaze locked on the unmoving blue water of my parents’ pool.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see his hand falter in the process of taking a sip of the Diet Coke, and he turns to look at my profile, and then … horror … I see his eyes briefly run over my body.
My soft, untoned, prefers-real-Coke body.
I resist the urge to cover up, but I do suck in my belly. Just a little.
“Chlo—” His voice is a horrifying mixture of surprise and dismay.
“Don’t,” I mutter.
I turn to meet his familiar blue eyes. “Don’t be all nice to me about this. I know kind is written into your DNA, and that’s usually super charming, but I know what I look like, okay? I’m no Kristin.”
He opens his mouth and shuts it just as quickly, and because I know him—because I know Devon Patterson so freaking well—I know what he was going to say.
I like you the way you are.
But he can’t say that, because he’s not dating the girl with the soft thighs; he’s dating the one with the skinny, toned ones.
He may very well like me just the way I am.
But he doesn’t like like me just the way I am.
Not like he likes Kristin.
And for the first time, it occurs to me that maybe Devon’s not quite so unaware of my little crush as I’d imagined.
The thought bugs.
And then an even worse horror occurs to me: What if Kristin knows?
What if she knows that I’m breaking the ultimate sister code? What if she and Devon talk about it in the oh, poor chubby Chloe kind of way?
My face burns at the prospect, although not with embarrassment so much as shame.
Is this what I’ve let myself become?
I’m terrified that it is.
At school I can fool myself into thinking that I’m in control; that I’m at the helm of my own future.
But back home in Cedar Grove, where everyone overlooks Kristin’s imperfections and where the boy I’ve always adored pops in and out of my life in an ever-platonic nightmare, am I really in control?
Or am I just a passive spectator of my own life?
That stupid Michael St. Claire and his smug lecturing about my out-of-shapeness being a symptom of my lack of control over my own life is freaking true.
I’m not one of those girls dumb enough to think that a certain number on the scale or certain size on my dress label is going to bring all kinds of happiness. I mean, my sister is a stick and sometimes when she thinks nobody’s watching, she looks thirty seconds away from a breakdown.
But I am sick of feeling like food controls me.
The ice cream and the candy and the chips and, yes, the damn Coke.
And, yeah, maybe a little tired of my lack of energy, and the fact that nobody ever looks surprised to find me sitting on my ass on a gorgeous summer day when the rest of the club is playing golf or tennis or, you know … moving.
And worst of all … maybe I’m just a little sick of mooning after a guy who seems perfectly content to use me for conversation and friendship while he can’t keep his hands off my sister.
Maybe it’s time that Chloe Bellamy got in the driver’s seat of her own life, starting with giving the couch potato Chloe the ol’ boot.
I stand abruptly and Devon looks at me in surprise. “Where you going?”
“Gotta call my personal trainer. I didn’t put my best foot forward today, and I want to make sure he doesn’t stand me up tomorrow,” I say, giving his shin a sisterly pat as I pass his chair.
Well, would ya look at that? I didn’t even try to cop a feel.
Progress. Definitely progress.
The pay at Cambridge Country Club is decent, but picking up an occasional bartending shift at Pig and Scout is always welcome.