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Elodie's jaw drops

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Elodie's jaw drops. Setting down her can of Cola, Cricket gives me the same look of wide-eyed amazement. 'I can't process it.'

'Some girls have all the luck,' Anna-Beth says. 'I've been stood up three times, yet Finch Whittingham has never come to my rescue.'

'I, for one, think it was very gentlemanly of him to watch out for you after getting you in trouble with Savannah. It was the least he could do,' Elodie interjects, shooting Anna-Beth an exasperated look. 'I hate to talk about anyone - especially when they've got a mama like Jolene Bouchard - but that girl can be ugly.'

Anna-Beth rolls onto her front. 'I'd take on a hundred Savannahs if he noticed me.' I roll my eyes at her swooning and sip at my iced tea.

'So, you wanted to go out with James, and instead you've ended up dating Finch?' Cricket's voice is slow, each word deliberate.

'Cricket, keep up! I don't know what is happening with James. Or how I feel.' I sneak a look at Elodie, who picks invisible lint off her sleeve. 'And I'm not actually dating Finch. Those are just rumours.'

'But you kissed him?'

At the reminder, I groan and hide my head in my hands. Elodie slaps Cricket's arm.

'On the cheek, which means nothing. Maybe he'll just think it's a British thing,' says Elodie. 'I mean you kissed us goodbye yesterday -'

'Which we thought was weird,' says Cricket. 'But then Anna-Beth and I googled it and it's very European. Apparently.' I groan a second time.

Elodie reaches over to place a reassuring hand over mine. 'It'll all be fine, sweetie.'

'Oh God, I'm so embarrassed.' I feel rather than see Elodie tense up. As the daughter of a pastor, she doesn't appreciate my casual blaspheming.

'You need to act as though you meant it. Like you do that to everyone,' says Elodie.

An idea pops into my head and I sit up, brightened by the thought. 'So, you think I should greet everyone like that? Would that help?'

'No,' they chorus.

'So, you haven't slept with him,' Cricket says. She looks deep in thought.

A hot blush spreads across my face, prickling my skin. I shake my head. 'Crik, I've not done anything with him. Not even kissed him. In fact-' I pause, unsure of whether I should tell the truth, 'I've never kissed anyone,' I admit. Not wanting to see pity or derision, I drop my gaze to my cup.

'Well, butter my biscuits, this is amazing!' shrieks Cricket. A sharp shush from the librarian brings her back to a whisper.

'It's not amazing. I'm almost seventeen and have never been kissed. It's mortifying.'

'Now, hush your nonsense. There's nothing embarrassing about saving yourself for the right boy,' says Elodie. 'I only had my first kiss this summer, and I, for one, was glad I waited. It made it more special.'

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