An Excerpt from the Sequel to The Book of Luke

I had to tell Luke. So after breakfast I texted him that I was coming over. He didn’t reply but I figured that was because he was still asleep, it was Saturday after all. And Luke was not a morning person.

“Hi Mrs. Preston.” Luke’s mom was lacing up her sneakers in the kitchen when I arrived at his house. She ran five miles every day and had been trying to recruit me to join her and experience what she called a runner’s high. High or not, while I appreciated that Luke got his athleticism from his mom, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be on the losing end of a race with a fifty-year old woman, and so I’d managed to avoid committing to join her any time soon.

“Emily!” she stood up and came over to hug me. Mrs. Preston loved me. Most parents did. Of course, Luke’s mom had no idea what happened at the all-school assembly in April. If she knew I’d only started dating her son because we thought he was the biggest jerk in school, she might not be hugging me so fondly. But, as my mom would say, bygones.

“Is Luke awake?”

“He’s upstairs. Hopefully I’ll be back in less than 35 minutes.” Luke’s mom tapped the black digital watch she always wore on her wrist when she ran. “Go on up.”

It was just one of the differences between our families. Luke was not allowed anywhere near my bedroom if my parents weren’t home, and when they were my mom always popped her head in for routine spot inspections, as if Luke and I would be tearing each other’s clothes off and going at it in my bed while my parents were downstairs cooking dinner.

I watched Mrs. Preston sprint out the kitchen door and then headed upstairs to see Luke.

The hallway leading to Luke’s room was quiet, and when I reached his door I turned the knob slowly and silently.

He was still in bed, curled up around his pillow with the comforter pushed to the side so his bare legs were exposed. The hairs on his leg were already fading to a pale blonde from spending every afternoon outside at lacrosse practice, and he had a faint tan line ringing his ankle where his socks stopped. The far window was cracked half-way open and I could hear the birds chirping outside, calling to each other from one tree to the next. I could have said his name or made a noise as I stood in the doorway, but instead I just stayed there and watched him. My boyfriend.

It still took my breath away sometimes, the complete improbability that Luke and I would end up together. We could be doing something completely normal, like driving in the car or sitting together at lunch, and I’d look over at him and be struck by the reality that Luke Preston had fallen in love with me. And it had been impossible for me not to fall in love with him in return. After months of stringing him along for the sake of my senior time capsule “project,” after he found out the truth, after he hated me for keeping the truth from him (I always stopped short of saying I lied), Luke still found a way to love me, and to forgive me. I can’t say I’d be that understanding. I’m actually a little embarrassed to admit that I would honestly find it near impossible (or, actually, completely impossible) to be that understanding or forgiving. But he was a better person than I was, apparently, which is ironic considering the whole plan had been for me to turn a jerk into a good guy, and I ended up turning myself from a good person into a jerk.

Bygones.

Luke slept in boxers and a t-shirt. This morning’s boxers were blue and red plaid, and his pale blue t-shirt had an elephant on the front. Jumbo the elephant, the Tufts University mascot. Not exactly the most menacing or inspirational athletic mascot ever created, but I knew that Luke was thrilled to be recruited for the lacrosse team, and I loved recalling the day he found out that he’d been accepted and we’d driven to Medford to watch his future teammates practice. It had rained and the ground was muddy and slippery and it was an all-around disgusting Spring day. Still, I barely remembered the cold or the rain. All I remembered was how we’d slipped and fallen in the mud on the hill leading to the lacrosse field and instead of getting up we rolled around and kissing until the mud seeped into my ears and I was sure a family of worms had found their way into my pants, and none of it mattered because Luke’s body was warm on top of me as we laughed and ignored the sound of the coach’s whistle in the background.

It was nothing like today, which already felt like summer even though it was only the first week of June.

“You’re watching me.” Luke’s lips moved but his eyes remained shut.

“How can you tell?” I asked.

“I can feel your eyes boring into my soul.” He opened one eye and glanced over in my direction before rolling over onto his side and patting the comforter next to him. “Come here.”

My mom would freak. Still, I walked over and curled up beside him, our bodies fitting together like puzzle pieces that snap into place with little effort. We were spooning, an expression my mother hated. She didn’t understand why anyone would want to refer to a utensil when describing a form of physical affection. TJ had once joked that spooning was innocent when compared to forking. She didn’t find that funny.

I laid my head on the pillow beside Luke’s.

“I got your text. What’s up?” he asked. “You miss me already?”

“It’s been less than twenty-four hours,” I reminded him, although even just the thought of my upcoming trip with my mom made my throat ache. “I think I can survive.”

“And yet here you are.” Luke pushed my hair aside and kissed the back of my neck.

“You know you should get up. It’s gorgeous out.”

“Okay, give me a reason to get up. What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. We could take a ride to Mount Wilder.”

Luke considered my suggestion. “And what will we do when we get there?”

“We could have a picnic. And then I was thinking, maybe we drive into Boston for the afternoon. And tonight we could go to that old drive-in movie theater in Duxmont, I checked and the first show starts at eight,” I rattled off the first three items on our summer To Do list, a list we started making a few weeks ago when we realized we only had five weeks before we both went in separate directions in July.

“It’s the first day of summer vacation, at this rate we’ll run out of things to do after our first week.” Luke laid his hand on my waist and pulled me closer to him, my back pressing against his belly button. “We have five weeks. We can’t do everything the first weekend.”

I probably should have turned around and faced Luke when I told him my news, but I couldn’t. Instead I stayed nestled against him as I stared at his bedroom wall.