Chapter One.

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My life is pretty simple. I don't have too many complications in my daily life. I'm a happy person, these things are known.

The first three thoughts that go through my mind each day are:

It's less crowded here than I thought.

I hope Tessa is off work today so we can hang out.

I miss my mom.

Yes, I'm a sophomore at New York University, but my mom is one of my best friends.

I miss home a lot. It helps to have Tessa around; she's the closest thing to family I have out here.

I know college students do this all the time; they leave home and can't wait to be away from their hometowns, but not me. I happened to like mine, even if it's not where I grew up. I had a plan at the time I applied to NYU; it just didn't work out the way it was supposed to. I was supposed to move here and start my future with Dakota, my long-term girlfriend from high school. I had no idea that she would decide she wanted to spend her first year at college single.

I was devastated, I still am, but I want her to be happy, even if it's not with me.

The city's chilly in September, but there's barely any rain compared to Washington. So that's something, at least.

As I walk to work, I check my phone, like I do about fifty times a day. My mom's pregnant with my little sister, and I want to be sure that if anything happens I can get on a plane and be there for her quickly. So far the only messages from her have been pictures of the amazing things she whips up in the kitchen.

Not emergencies, but, man, I miss her cooking.

The streets are crowded as I make my way through them. I'm waiting at the crosswalk with a crowd of people, mostly tourists with heavy cameras around their necks. I laugh to myself when a teenage boy holds up a giant iPad to take a selfie.

I will never understand this impulse.

When the light turns red and the crosswalk starts flashing, I turn up the volume on my headphones.

Out here I pretty much wear headphones all day. The city is so much louder than I had anticipated, and I find it helpful to have something that blocks some of it out and at least colors those sounds that get in with something I like.

Today it's Hozier

I even wear the headphones while working—in one ear at least, so I can still hear the coffee orders shouted to me. I'm a little distracted today by two men, both dressed in pirate outfits and screaming at each other, and as I walk into the shop, I bump into Aiden, my least favorite coworker.

He's tall, much taller than me, and he has this white-blond hair that makes him look like Draco Malfoy, so he kind of creeps me out. On top of his Draco resemblance, he happens to be a little rude sometimes. He's nice to me, but I see the way he looks at the college girls who come into Grind. He acts like the coffee shop is named after a club rather than coffee grounds.

As he smiles down at them, flirting and making them squirm under his "handsome" gaze, I find it all pretty off-putting. He's not that handsome, actually; maybe if he was nicer, I could see it.

"Watch it, man," Aiden mumbles, slapping my shoulder like we're crossing a football field together in matching jerseys.

He's making record time in annoying me today . . .

But brushing it off, I head into the back and tie my yellow apron around my waist and check my phone. After I clock in, I find Posey, a girl who I'm supposed to be training for a couple of weeks. She's nice. Quiet, but she's a hard worker, and I like that she always takes the free cookie we offer her every training day as an incentive to be a little happier during the shift. Most trainees decline it, but she's eaten one every single day this week, sampling the variety: chocolate, chocolate macadamia, sugar, and some mystery greenish flavor that I think is some gluten-free all-natural localvore thing.

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