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until you shared your secret with me

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After Jamie's finals and before he started his summer internship at a prestigious New York law firm that Amy swore had more names than a phone book, he had a week long break. Amy had circled that week in her calendar months earlier. She had plans for that week, the sort of plans that involved only leaving bed to obtain food and then bringing the food back to bed to see what sort of fun could be had with it.

So when two weeks before, Jamie called and asked if she wouldn't mind going to Virginia with him for the weekend, Amy was torn between her desire to lick chocolate syrup off his chest and her excitement at the prospect of finally meeting Jamie's father. But she knew what being a good girlfriend demanded.

"Are there embarrassing baby pictures?" she asked, and Jamie laughed. A shiver went down her spine. She reconsidered whether or not she made the right choice.

"I'm going to assume that's a yes," Jamie said. "I'll email you the details. I need to get back to my study group. Love you."

He hung up without waiting for her answer.

"Love you, too," Amy said to dead air where her boyfriend should have been.

There had better be embarrassing pictures and the stories to go with them, Amy thought to herself. That was the least he owed her after turning into finals-Jamie. Well, besides sex. He owed her that, too. And Amy fully intended to collect.

She made a mental note to stock up on chocolate syrup anyways. She'd just have to adjust her plans. Some things shouldn't be given up so easily. That was one of them.

*

Two weeks and a train ride later, Amy's excitement about meeting Jamie's father had transitioned into a full blown case of the nerves. She'd been dating Jamie for more than a year. What if the reason that this hadn't happened yet was because Jamie was ashamed of her? Or thought that his father wouldn't like her? Or --

"Stop thinking," Jamie said, reaching over to take her hand in his. He ran his thumb across the inside of her wrist, in what Amy was sure he thought was a calming gesture. It wasn't. Not now.

She shook her head. "Losing battle."

"Try," he said. He bent his head to kiss the side of her neck in the spot that he knew she liked. "Does that help any?"

"Not as much as you're hoping it did."

Jamie laughed and kissed the same spot again. "Okay," he said. "What are you so worried about?"

"That he won't like me?" Really, she thought, for a bright guy, Jamie could be very stupid sometimes.

"I guarantee you that he'll like you. He'll be able to see that you exist and aren't a figment of my imagination. He was starting to think I'd made you up."

Amy rolled her eyes. "He was not."

"He was," Jamie insisted. He kissed her then, in a way that was wholly inappropriate for a kiss on a train full of people. When he pulled back, Amy felt light headed. "Better?"

"Was there something wrong?" she asked, and Jamie's mouth turned up in a smug smile. Amy decided that she'd let him get away with it, just this once. "Do that again."

"I'd love to," Jamie said, standing and pulling Amy to her feet. "But we're here."

The knot where her stomach used to be came back in an instant and her grip on his hand tightened so much that Jamie actually yelped.

"Sorry?" Amy said, more than a little sheepishly.

"Let's get this over with," Jamie sighed.

She followed him off the train on trembling legs. It would be okay, she told herself. She was good with parents. Parents liked her.

And after all, how scary could one little old gardener be?

*

"Would you like more iced tea?" Mr. Orcutt asked an hour later, hand already outstretched for her glass.

From her spot on the couch, Amy shook her head. "No, thank you," she said. She smiled up at him. "I'm all set."

Mr. Orcutt smiled back, his eyes crinkling up around the corners. "If you'll excuse me for a minute, I'll be right back."

He stepped back into the kitchen and Amy turned to Jamie, poking him in the arm. "Why didn't you tell me your dad was so nice?"

"He didn't ask me if I wanted iced tea," Jamie grumbled, and Amy poked him again. "Ow." He rubbed the spot on his arm. "I didn't think you were into that kind of thing."

"Jamie."

"I did tell you that my dad was nice. You were too busy freaking out to listen."

Amy frowned at him. "Take that back."

"What? No. It's true," he said. "I am not going to start taking back true things."

Her frown deepened. "I don't care for the fact that you have a point."

"I don't care for the fact that my dad likes you more than he likes me," Jamie said. He kissed her. "So we're even."

"Even with what?" Mr. Orcutt asked, stepping back into the living room from the kitchen. He glanced down at Amy's half empty glass again. "Amy, are you sure I can't get you anything?"

"Well, actually," Amy said, shooting Jamie an evil look. "There was something I was wondering."

"What's that?"

"Do you have any baby pictures that I could look at?"

Jamie was shaking his head frantically beside her and Amy elbowed him in the side again, and Mr. Orcutt just looked confused. "Of course there are pictures," he said slowly. "Let me go get them for you."

He backed out of the room as quickly as he could.

Amy grinned in triumph. Jamie groaned and buried his head in his hands.

"Aw," she said, wrapping her arms around him. "I'll make it up to you, I promise."

Jamie snuck a look at her from between his fingers. "How?"

"Well," Amy said, leaning forward to whisper in his ear, "how do you feel about chocolate syrup?"