Seeing Cosette in person changed everything. Had I almost forgotten what it was like to be so close to her?
When she wanted GoatBallz’s opinion on her outfits, of course he–I–wouldn’t refuse her.
But…her putting on a private show for me…
What could I say? At least I didn’t have to whisper–but I found it difficult to say anything at all.
It was too late to tell her who I was, wasn’t it? Especially when I’d just met with her earlier in the day…
No–I had to tell her. I had to. I took a deep breath…
…But then she changed into something even more revealing and took my breath away.
I was relieved–and slightly disappointed–when she abruptly ended the show. I couldn’t let this go on any longer…
I was shocked when I got a text the next day–not as GoatBallz, but on the phone number I’d given to Cosette as myself.
She wanted to see me again. If I wasn’t busy. How could I ever be too busy for her? I suggested meeting at one of my father’s old forest warlock haunts that wasn’t in use–there’d be no risk of running into someone we knew.
“This reminds me of a tree somebody texted me once,” Cosette said, her hands running across the bark of an oak.
“Who?” I whispered. Had she met another satyr…? Or maybe it was a dryad.
“Oh, he’s kind of–well, I guess I can’t say he’s my BFFAE, since you are, but he moderates my stream.”
She sat down under the shade of the oak, and I sat beside her.
When had I sent her a pic of an oak–oh. When she’d sent me a pic of her chest-fruits in all their glory…
“…This kind of reminds you of the old days, doesn’t it?” Cosette asked. “Back before…everything happened and all.”
I never stopped loving you, I wanted to tell her. And I never will. “It does,” I whispered instead. “It’s like we’re in a world of our own.”
“I missed you. A lot,” she blurted. “Oh, I said that already last time, didn’t I? Sorry, you know how I am, I forget stuff–but it’s just been so lonely, I guess, so this is–really nice, right?”
I reached for her cheek. “I missed you too.”
“I’m sorry I never called…or texted…or emailed–or sent a raven or whatever tree-people do. But it was just kind of weird, I guess. Everything.”
“…We’re still best friends, right?” Her voice caught.
“For all eternity.”
I didn’t think it was the best idea for Cosette to rest her head in my lap, but I wouldn’t push her away…
The view was incredible–better than anything on my phone or computer…
And when it was time to leave, she…decided to ride me without warning. It really just was like old times, but her lower body strength was somehow even better…
“I can feel the wind in my hair,” she said. “Who needs motorcycles? I like posing on them, though, even if I can’t drive.”
I really, really couldn’t become her primary mode of transportation…
Even if I could use my words now, I’d never use them to protest against her. Every moment with her was too precious.
The next morning, I checked any messages she might’ve left me as sleepyyswan–I was running late for practice, but I’d still make time for her.
I was so distracted that I didn’t look up at the sound of heels on stone. Maybe Rosaline had forgotten something at my house and needed it for work–or maybe a favorite book. She had a key.
“Row-Rave!” Not Rosaline’s voice–her sister’s.
She slammed right into me, but I was part tree; I held firm.
“Cos–” My voice was too loud. “…ette,” I finished in a whisper. “Is something wrong?”
“No,” she said, ruby eyes wide. “Everything’s right. I know it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I talked to Grandpa Graham…and I found out you’re living next to one of the houses he bought for me. That’s fate, Rowan. Obviously, I should live in that house now–we can be BFFAEs and neighbors.”
…Did she know Rosaline lived on the other side of me? What would happen if the two sisters lived so close together? And how could I live so close to her and still moderate her stream–and keep GoatBallz’ identity a secret?
“That’s…great news,” I whispered.
I wanted to be close to her more than anything…but now I was trapped between a rock, chest-fruits, and my own lies…