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Sam’s phone feels heavy in his hands, and he shifts it back and forth between them, hesitating. Lisa’s message had been curt, to the point; Call me back, it’d said, three words in an unreadable tone, and he isn’t sure that means anything good.

Listening to it was the first thing to plant his feet back on the ground ever since he’d walked out of Gage Whitney and into Josh’s very wet arms, ready to follow him wherever the hell he led, all because of that terrible poker face. It hadn’t felt real, like an exciting, enthralling dream he never wanted to wake up from. But now—oh now, sitting here in his and Josh’s shared hotel room in New Hampshire, everything feels real. Almost too real.

He hears the water running in the bathroom and figures this is as good a time as any to call back. He and Lisa haven’t actually had a conversation since he left with Josh, just a game of phone tag, so once he has the phone pressed to his ear he’s actually surprised when Lisa answers, “Hey,” on the third ring.

“Hey.” His mouth feels dry. “I got your message.”

“You’re in New Hampshire?” Lisa doesn’t like to beat around the bush. He remembers finding that quality attractive, back when they first met. Now he wishes she’d indulge him in small talk, if only for a minute, so he can adjust.

“Yeah,” he said. “Josh and I—”

“Josh.” She says so much more than just Josh’s name right then; it’s an accusation and a question all at once, confused and certain at the same time. He finds the dichotomy impressive.

“Yeah,” Sam replies, and he wonders if his voice is supposed to sound that small, “Josh.”

There’s a pause, a frustrated puff of breath, and he imagines her sitting down on their—her—bed, closing her eyes. “Well,” she says at last, “this isn’t going to work, is it?”

So many replies balance on the tip of his tongue. The first is, Of course it will. The next is, I’m sorry, I made a mistake. Another is, You don’t know that. Then, We can do this. You’ll see. Even, I love you.

“No, it won’t,” he says instead. He also doesn’t say, I never meant to hurt you. He doesn’t think it would make a difference.

Lisa sighs heavily. “All right,” she says, and she sounds sad, and he hates himself for it. “Good luck, Sam.” There’s something about her tone that socks him hard in the gut, the way it’s layered with regret and sadness and a hint of anger, but still remains sincere.

“Yeah. Thanks,” he manages. “You too.” The words sound ridiculous and hollow and wrong the second he says them, but there’s nothing he can do about that. There’s nothing he can think to say that will sound right.

“Bye, Sam,” she says.

“Bye, Lisa.” She hangs up first.

Josh wanders out of the bathroom seconds later, in boxers and an undershirt; his hair is wet and he’s holding a towel, and he says, “Shower’s free,” and then the goofy smile he’s wearing slowly vanishes, probably when he sees the look on Sam’s face. He indicates the phone, asking, “Was that, uh...”

“Lisa,” he confirms with a nod. “Yeah.”

Josh has that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look, the one he gets when something terrible has happened and he has no idea how to respond. Sam can’t help but save him. “Don’t worry about it,” he says, standing up. “I’m going to take a shower.” He looks down at the phone in his hands again.

It still feels heavy, he notes. Real.